Rent Subsidy Cuts ‘Inhumane’

Alameda County Courthouse (Joebeone)

To cut off $191 monthly housing allowances to 6,000 unemployed adults on Alameda County’s general assistance rolls because their landlords fail to provide a social security number would be “arbitrary and inhumane,” a state court of appeals ruled.  General assistance is considered the last resort for indigent and disabled residents.  A Superior Court judge blocked the regulation from taking effect in January 2010, setting the stage for the appeal.

Under the county plan landlords would receive direct payment of the rent subsidy of $191 monthly, so long as they filled out a county form with their tax ID numbers.  If they refused the general assistance recipient would get $105 per month for basic needs and could apply for a rent allowance or space at a homeless shelter.  But first they had to be left homeless.  That provision the First District Court of Appeal said was inhumane for a program intended to help the most desperate in a county with a severe shortage of homeless shelter beds.  See decision here.  

 The county adopted revised “need” regulations in 2007 that found $336 per month for single adults was the sum of in-kind values the county would provide at no cost.  That included $147 for rent, $117 for food, $44 for utilities, $11 for clothing and $17 for transit and incidentals.

The county argued that it imposed the Form W-9 program, requesting the landlord’s taxpayer ID number to address IRS concerns over tax reporting of the benefits to landlords.  They county denied the policy was intended as a cost saving move, according to the court.  San Francisco Chronicle has details here.

Case: Cleary v. County of Alameda, No. A127935 (1st Dist. Ct. of Appeal)

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