Rents Based on SSHP’s “Tier System” Are Unfair
By Phyllis Baker, SSHP resident and PSARA member
Some residents of Willis House, a Seattle Senior Housing Program building, have formed a “rent committee” to look into SSHP’s current policy of calculating rents.
While rents in publicly funded lowincome programs are figured on percentage of income, SSHP adopted a “tier” system in 2003 under which a very small increase in income can instantly result in a rent hike of nearly $200 or more. A resident taking a part-time job to supplement his or her income quickly learns that he or she can lose that income and a great deal more in increased rent. This is only one of the abuses this unfair policy inflicts on residents of SSHP.
Residents with incomes which are only a few dollars different can find they are paying radically different rents for identical apartments.
Another abuse of the system: Medicare premiums, which are automatically deducted from Social Security payments and never reach the recipient’s bank account, are still counted as income for rent purposes. Persons whose premiums are covered under Medicaid never have to report those amounts.
Low-income residents live within a narrow margin. A sudden unplanned rent increase of $200 a month would throw anyone’s budget seriously off, but especially persons who are already watching their nickels and dimes. Even residents who are not paying the higher rents find the use of the tier system painful and mystifying. It’s time to discard it and go back to the straight percentage calculation which is fair to everyone.