Trump Proposal Would Jeopardize Rental Aid for Many U.S. Citizens

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Current rules require citizens applying for rental aid to declare, under penalty of perjury, their citizenship status. At their discretion, local housing agencies may also require applicants to submit documents verifying their citizenship status. This policy seeks to ensure that only eligible people receive federal housing aid without creating undue barriers for vulnerable people seeking assistance.

The Trump proposal would eliminate this discretion by requiring every U.S. citizen to provide documents, such as a birth certificate or U.S. passport, to verify their citizenship when applying for or seeking to continue receiving rental assistance that HUD administers.

Many U.S. citizens would likely struggle to meet this requirement. Twelve percent of U.S. citizens with incomes below $25,000 lack proof of citizenship, an NYU Brennan Center for Justice survey found. Obtaining documents such as a birth certificate can be costly and time-consuming, partly because it often requires other documents that an individual may also lack, such as a government-issued photo ID. Adults earning under $35,000 are twice as likely as others to lack a government-issued photo ID, according to the survey.

The proposal would disproportionately harm U.S. citizens who are people of color or women, among other groups. One-quarter of Black citizens lack a government-issued photo ID, according to the Brennan survey, and about half of women citizens lack a birth certificate with their current legal name. Many people who have experienced homelessness also lack a photo ID due to the difficulty of maintaining important documents while homeless.

Rental assistance recipients who couldn’t provide the documents in a timely manner would lose their aid. And, because the great majority of assisted families have extremely low incomes, those losing aid would struggle to find and maintain housing in the private market, and some would likely become homeless. Those losing aid likely wouldn’t regain it later even if they secured the necessary documents: only 1 in 4 eligible households receive federal rental assistance due to its limited funding.

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