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MDRC's Rent Reform Assault: Section 8 tenants vs. affordable housing industry

by Lynda Carson Thursday, Jul. 24, 2014 at 12:24 AM

Section 8 tenants in Los Angeles and around the nation are under assault by a rent reform study taking place that will result in higher rents and a loss of housing vouchers for low-income Section 8 tenants!

MDRC's Rent Reform Assault: Section 8 tenants vs. affordable housing industry

By Lynda Carson -- July 24, 2014

Oakland -- The affordable housing industry and it's lobbyists have had a recent setback with their scheme to promote Rental Assistance Reform (RAR) in the federal subsidized Section 8 housing choice voucher program, in their latest assault against Section 8 voucher holders (Housing Choice Voucher Holders).

Around forty Section 8 tenants and their supporters have recently banded together in a city to fight back and protest against a rent reform study that would have used them as guinea pigs, and the rent reform study was put on hold by the housing authority until further notice.

The reason the assault on the low-income Section 8 voucher holders is occurring is because the affordable housing industry wants more Section 8 vouchers to be taken away from the poor. The affordable housing industry wants the vouchers to be removed from the poor so the vouchers can be converted, and transferred for use at their subsidized housing projects.

As a strategy, during the past two years the affordable housing industry has lobbied Congress with their scheme known as Rental Assistance Reform (RAR), and their lobbying efforts have payed off in the guise of a rent reform study that is underway. RAR has ten main goals to change the present major federal subsidized housing programs with rent reform goals that would benefit their industry, while threatening Section 8 voucher holders with the loss of their vouchers, and homelessness in the process.

In essence, the so-called affordable housing industry wants RAR legislation to be passed that would allow all 3,300 PHAs to convert a whopping 25% of their Section 8 housing choice vouchers, into project-based vouchers for the wealthy so-called affordable housing developers and their projects. This is 5% more than what is currently allowed under federal law, and would be a great hardship on low-income Section 8 housing choice voucher holders if their vouchers are taken away from them.

In brief, the affordable housing industry is pushing for rental assistance reform (RAR) legislation that will result in fewer Section 8 housing choice vouchers for the poor, including higher rents for Section 8 voucher holders, and public housing residents. The affordable housing industry is also pushing for the acceleration of the privatization of conventional public housing projects, into privatized mixed-income residential housing developments for higher income renters through the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program.

According to Eleanor Walden, a former Rent Board Commissioner with the City of Berkeley, she said: "If anyone in low-income housing understands these draconian measures, they will know that they could very possibly end up on the streets in the very near future."

MDRC's Rent Reform Study & Background Information

The assault on Section 8 tenants is currently being spearheaded by James A. Riccio, and an Oakland nonprofit organization called MDRC (a..k.a. Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation). Under the guise of a rent reform study entitled the Housing Choice Voucher Rent Reform Study, the scheme is to use 1,000 poor Section 8 voucher holders (Housing Choice Voucher Holders), as guinea pigs in MDRC's study.

It appears that the federal government and MDRC wants to use Section 8 tenants as guinea pigs in a study of poor people in the Section 8 voucher program to see how many people end up becoming homeless, lose their kids to foster care, or commit suicide once the housing authorities and HUD start taking away child-care subsidies, utility allowances, medical bill allowances, adding time limits to the voucher holders, and starts charging low-income people much higher rents that end up taking food away from their children.

MDRC, a so-called nonprofit organization located at 475 14th Street in Oakland, has around 240 employees, and an additional office in New York City.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) hired MDRC and it's partners to assist HUD and local housing authorities to design and conduct a national evaluation of alternatives to the current structure in the Section 8 voucher program (a.k.a. Housing Choice Voucher Program). The rent reform study is the direct result of the lobbying efforts of the billion dollar affordable housing industry to pass rental assistance reform (RAR), that would pave the way for them to take Section 8 vouchers away from the poor, for their subsidized housing projects.

For years, MDRC located downtown Oakland has been involved in using poor people as guinea pigs in various research studies that they were contracted to do for the government. This includes studies on poor people in welfare to work programs, people in school programs, work programs for ex-prisoners, including programs for disabled people. MDRC became most notable or notorious for coming up with the states welfare to work policies of the 80s and 90s.

The organization was formed in 1974 by the Ford Foundation and several federal agencies, and the State of legal domicile is Delaware. With gross receipts of $68,160,973 from 1/1/2012 through 12/31/2012, their assets grew from $86,597,703 in 2010, to a whopping $90,045,462 in 2012.

A money making machine, from 1/1/2012 through 12/31/2012 some of their top executives have been raking in the dough, including: Gordon Berlin who made a whopping $395,792 plus $56,022 in other compensation, Jesus M. Amadeo $288,736 plus $48,378, Robert J. Ivry $291,654 plus $49,570, Barbara Goldman $191,776 plus $23,553, Frederick Doolittle $233,020 plus $44,329, Sharon L. Rowser $179,691 plus $38,371, Louise A. London $76,225 plus $13,466, Thomas Brock $182,489 plus $23,993, James A. Riccio $179,205 plus $38,652, Howard S. Bloom $264,081 plus $49,007, Charles Michalopoulos $190,727 plus $31,728, and Anne Fenton $179,068 plus $23,586 in other compensation.

Section 8 Tenants Protest Against The Housing Choice Voucher Rent Reform Study

As recent as June 17, 2014 the Louisville Metro Housing Authority placed a policy notice on their website called the "Proposed Moving to Work (MTW) Activity: Rent Reform." It's a notice about a rent reform policy change in their Section 8 program that will deeply affect the lives of many Section 8 tenants in a negative way, for a period of three-years.

According to public records with HUD, LMHA has 10,958 Section 8 households, and 4,629 low-rent units with 11 more units in development. The LMHA is a Moving To Work (MTW) demonstration housing authority that does not have to abide by all the normal rules and regulations most other 3,300 housing authorities have to abide by that protect the interests of low-income renters. Currently there are only "34" MTWs nationwide. HUD has been under fire since an April 19, 2012, report that was issued on May 21, by the Government Accounting Office (GAO), that ridicules any assertions by HUD that an MTW's activities can be evaluated properly. The GAO is an investigative arm of Congress with the power to examine matters related to the receipt and use of funding by Congress, and the GAO believes that MTWs are not regulated enough to properly evaluate how they are operating.

Meanwhile, as a result of the chilling notice proposing major rent reform policies affecting poor people in the Section 8 rental assistance program (Housing Choice Voucher Program) at LMHA, a number of tenants banded together to protest against the proposals that would treat them like a bunch of guinea pigs, in a lab cage.

According to a report in The Courier-Journal: Around 40 protesters appeared at a Louisville Metro Housing Authority (LMHA) board meeting on Tuesday July 15, with some protesters holding signs stating "We are households, not guinea pigs!!. We need homes, not more poverty."

Other protesters had duct tape covered over their mouths in protest. As a result of the protest, the housing authority held back on passing a measure that would have set the rent reform policies into motion, until the tenants could voice their concerns with James Riccio of MDRC.

The protesters are angry, and are responding to the proposed three-year rent reform study of the Section 8 housing tenants that would negatively affect their lives, and threaten them with homelessness.

The Section 8 tenants would be forced to be part of a 1,000 member study group that includes different rate structures as a test on the tenants, just to see how they would be affected by the changes in their lives. They are being threatened with the loss of their Section 8 vouchers and threatened with homelessness if they refuse to go along with the study that is being forced upon them.

According to reports, some of the tenants will be forced into a group that will have to pay minimum rent payments of $75 per month or 28% of their income, and they will also lose their child-care subsidies. Additionally the rent reform alternatives being forced on the low-income Section 8 tenants include an elimination of medical deductions and allowances, a revised methodology of determining gross annual income, a simplified utility allowance schedule, and time limits, in addition to other major changes in the program.

These are some of the same changes in federal rental assistance housing programs being promoted by the affordable housing industry, in their rental assistance reform (RAR) legislation they want passed by Congress.

The low-income tenants are being told that during the study period each household selected for the new rent policy cannot opt out of the policy, and households not selected for the alternative policy cannot opt into it. The tenants will be notified if they are chosen for the rent reform study when it is time to recertify their Section 8 contracts. The tenants have a "7 day" grace period to file for a "hardship waiver" in the event the Section 8 voucher cutbacks result in them not being able to pay their rent, or utility bills.

Additionally it was reported in the Courier-Journal that critics such as Cathy Hinko, executive director of the Metropolitan Housing Coalition, complained about the decision not to give residents a choice in the matter.

"They can get informed consent, (but) they choose not to, even though the population, children, who are primarily who will be affected are considered to be very vulnerable," Hinko said.

Kathleen Parks, head of the Louisville chapter of the National Action Network, claimed a history of "experimentation" on black citizens is a reason for mistrust.

"African Americans since slavery have been experimented upon in some way or fashion," Parks said, citing the 1932 Tuskegee Institute study that allowed 399 black men with syphilis to go untreated without their knowledge.

"It may seem extreme to use the example of the Tuskegee experiment, but nevertheless it was done and the premise of that experiment at that time was justified, so the experts say, just like this experiment is supposed to be justified."

According to reports: James Riccio of MDRC said, "Only 10 percent of families are using the child-care subsidy and that while he understands the argument for consent, Congress has given the office of Housing and Urban Development the power to proceed without it."

A letter dated July 11, 2014 from the ACLU to Tim Barry, the executive director of LMHA, requests that the LMHA should refuse from volunteering for the rent reform study since the study is a social experiment in which public benefits are being unequally distributed on a random basis. In their own words, the ACLU of Kentucky believes that the random selection of participants in the rent reform study implicates equal protection considerations because the interests purportedly served by the study will be untethered to the manner in which participants are selected, and because it will result in the unequal distribution of government assistance to similarly situated individuals based upon a random (and thus arbitrary) selection process.

A Profile Of LMHA Section 8 Tenants In The Housing Choice Voucher Program

According to the LMHA website: 82% of their Section 8 voucher holders/public housing tenants are black, 10% white, and 8% other.

According to HUD's public records: The average income of LMHA's Section 8 tenants is $10,198 per year, and only 3% of the Section 8 tenants have an income of more than $25,000 per year, with 24% of the Section 8 tenants earning wages. Additionally, 61% of the tenants receive welfare assistance, including 60% that receive assistance from SSI disability, or earnings from Social Security and pensions.

According to HUD's public records, during 2013 there were 2,386,237 Section 8 voucher holders nationally, including 5,360,333 people in the program. 96% of the people in the Section 8 program are very low-income, earning 30% less than the local AMI. A total of 81% of Section 8 households have a female as the head of household, with 44% being female with children. 68% of voucher holders are 62 years old or older, with 67% being minorities, 48% of voucher holders are black, 15% of voucher holders are Hispanic, and 3% are Asian or Pacific Islanders. The average household income per year is $13,138, and the average Section 8 tenant pays $346.00 per month in rent to the landlord.

MDRC was also contracted by HUD to do rent reform studies in Lexington KY, San Antonio TX, and Washington D.C.

Lynda Carson may be reached at tenantsrule (at)

For more about the push by the affordable housing industry to promote Rental Assistance Reform (RAR) policies that are an assault on Section 8 tenants, click on the links below...

(Indy Bay News Wire)
Non-profit developers scheme to grab Section 8 vouchers and public housing

By Lynda Carson - October 24, 2013

Click below for more detailed story...

(Berkeley Daily Planet)
Non-profit Developers Scheme to Grab Section 8 Vouchers and Public Housing

By Lynda Carson
Thursday October 24, 2013 - 08:43:00 PM

Click below for less detailed story...

Link to Letter from ACLU & other links...

It is my hope that the links below will help Section 8 tenants all across the nation to put up a fight against the so-called affordable housing industry and their attack against Section 8 voucher holders, and public housing tenants.


Lynda Carson
tenantsrule [at]

ACLU comment regarding rent reform study. A letter that is in opposition to the current proposed rent reform study by MDRC...

LMHA/MTW - Housing Choice Voucher Rent Reform study proposal

(Multi-Billion Dollar Affordable Housing Industry Push For RAR)
CLPHA - Advancing Rental Assistance Reform (RAR)

Housing Authority Profile List

Click below for links to complete list nationwide...

HUD - Residents Characteristics Report for public housing & section 8 housing

Picture of subsidized households

Picture of Subsidized Housing in 2008

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