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'Over-Income' Families Take Up Apartments In Public Housing Across The Delaware Valley

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Dozens of families who are considered "over-income" are living in public housing apartments across the Delaware Valley.

Over-income means a household's income is much higher than the threshold to get into public housing.

That's despite many public housing agencies have years-long waitlists.

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For instance, the Philadelphia Housing Authority's average wait time is 12 years - that is, for those who were lucky enough to get onto the waitlist. There are so many people requesting public housing in the City of Brotherly that the agency stopped accepting new applications in April 2013, except for elderly or disabled people. Still, officials at the PHA did not want to tell us the incomes of its wealthiest households.

But the incomes of the top-earning residents at nearby public housing authorities indicate over-income families are taking up apartments meant for low-income residents across our region, according to several right-to-know requests filed by Eyewitness News.

For instance, in the Delaware County Housing Authority, we discovered a family earns $69,893.

In the Wilmington Housing Authority, we found five families reporting their incomes between $91,694 and $95,533.

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Across the bridge, at the Camden Housing Authority, we found a household with an income of $104,209.

All that while each of these three housing authorities also have waitlists that are roughly between 1 and 3 years long.

The federal agency that oversees public housing is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD.

In 2015, officials with HUD said it would consider changes to make sure people who are in public housing actually need the assistance. But when we checked with HUD to see what policies have changed, a spokesperson told us the agency is still only considering potential changes.

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Also in 2015, HUD's Inspector General released a report,  recommending housing authorities force out egregious cases of over-income tenants. HUD objected, saying mixed-income neighborhoods can serve as positive reinforcement for low-income families.

We also found many housing authorities not following the recommendation.

That includes the The Philadelphia Housing Authority. PHA Spokesperson Nicole Tillman said "federal law does not allow for any housing authorities to remove a family from the program due to their income. Most of the residents residing in the PHA, are the city's most low income."

In an email, Lawrence Hartley,  the executive director of the Delaware County Housing Authority, said his agency "does not define 'over income,' we simply consider anyone over the HUD published income limits as 'over income.' DCHA does not force 'over income' tenants out."

The Wilmington and Camden housing authorities have not yet responded to those questions. This story will be updated when they do.

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