Hundreds of families throughout New Jersey live in public housing despite earning enough money to move out. The NBC10 Investigators first found nearly 200 over income families on public assistance in Philadelphia and have now tracked 755 throughout New Jersey.
The 755 over income families wouldn’t qualify for public housing if they applied today.
In Vineland there are 697 people on the waiting list. According to the Vineland Housing Authority and Department of Housing and Urban Development at least 16 families earn enough to move out. The highest earning family makes $131,000.
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“I don’t necessarily see it as a problem,” Vineland Housing Authority Director Jackie Jones said.
Jones said the higher a family’s income, the higher their rent. Taxpayers make up the difference.
“I see that there are people who think they don’t deserve the housing but the other point of view is that these families are actually helping to pay the bills to maintain these houses,” Jones said.
In Camden families wait an average of 39 months for public housing according to that city’s housing authority. HUD records show one Camden family earns $109,000 and 14 families make so much money they wouldn’t qualify for public housing if they applied today.
Those in charge in Camden say there are no plans to evict anyone.
“The law would preclude us from evicting tenants because their income is over income according to HUD,” Camden Housing Authority attorney Lisa Hendricks Richardson said.
In Trenton 3000 people are on the public housing waiting list. The NBC 10 Investigators showed Trenton Housing Authority Executive Director Oliver Leggett HUD records showing 20 over income families in Trenton. The top three earners make $103,000, $91,000, and $81,000.
“I suspect that they could (move out) but if you look at the market rates in this town versus other places it’s very difficult for them to sustain themselves,” Leggett said.
HUD sends hundreds of millions of tax dollars to housing authorities all over the county. A report by the HUD Inspector General said there are at least 22,226 over income families living in public housing nationally, costing taxpayers $104.4 million dollars.
“I’m confident we’re going to make sure we drive down the number of over income families but not take away the incentive for everyday families to become self-sufficient to work toward that,” HUD secretary Julian Castro said.
New Jersey has the fifth most over income families in the country. According to HUD data, at least 86 of them earn six figures.
“I think it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars,” Congressman David Jolley of Florida said.
The congressman oversees HUD’s budget as a member of the house appropriations committee.
“At the end of the day taxpayers are paying for $104 million in services that aren’t needed and if HUD’s not going to fix it I will make sure we fix it through the budget process,” he said.
Jolley recently supported a bill to evict over income families. The House of Representatives passed the bill last week. Now it has to pass the senate and the president has to sign it. If the bill becomes law, over income families will have two years to vacate public housing.