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The Columbus Dispatch
Jonathan Riskind

Disabled students safe for now

Subsidized OSU-area apartments could be threatened in the future, director fears

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

WASHINGTON - Marilyn Frank is happy that the House passed a bill yesterday to let disabled students keep their Ohio State University-area Creative Living apartments.

But Frank, director of the Creative Living complex, bemoans the fact that the legislation doesn’t help future student residents of the federally subsidized apartments.

Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Upper Arlington, is displeased, too. She sponsored the bill designed to solve a problem of Congress’ own making. But Pryce stresses that current residents are safe and vows to soon resolve the matter once and for all.

"It’s all out of whack," Pryce said, referring to a Congressional Budget Office fiscal analysis that put a steep price on allowing, theoretically, all disabled students nationwide to use subsidized housing from now on. "We just have to provide (the budget office) with some logic."

The bureaucratic nightmare stems from a bid to crack down on student-athletes’ misuse of so-called Section 8 housing.

It is only temporarily solved by Pryce’s bill. While disabled students living in the Creative Living complex as of Nov. 30, 1995, are exempted from restrictions on who can live in Section 8 housing, the budget office’s concerns prevented Pryce’s legislation from applying to future residents.

The budget office is charged with estimating how much legislation will cost. In this case, the office assumed a sudden new influx of disabled students using Section 8 housing nationwide and came up with a cost estimate of $1 billion.

But the problem may be isolated mainly to a few students living at the Creative Living complex, as far as Frank and Pryce know. In any case, the legislation simply allows disabled students to continue using Section 8 housing they always were allowed to use before Congress weighed in with an unintended ban.

There is no "new" drain on federal spending, Pryce said.

The prospect of losing their OSU-area apartments has been causing anxiety for a number of Creative Living residents. Creative Living operates 34 federally subsidized units near the campus - some of which are rented by disabled students. Those half-dozen students will be safe, assuming that the Senate also passes Pryce’s bill, but Creative Living’s future mission remains endangered, Frank said.

"This is a small fix," Frank said. "It is going keep my residents off the streets, but the future of Creative Living and what we do will be an issue."

The situation is a consequence of legislation aimed at cracking down on subsidizedhousing abuses at the University of Iowa involving student-athletes, some with affluent parents, on scholarships who were living in Section 8 housing meant for low-income people. Legislation written by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, required the Department of Housing and Urban Development to count more of a student’s finances to determine eligibility for federally subsidized housing. But the rules putting the new law into effect Jan. 30 also count as income independentliving assistance funding received by the disabled students.

Pryce said she didn’t receive word of the $1 billion cost estimate until just before the bill was to reach the House floor. She decided to move forward with a scaled-back bill protecting current residents, which still has what she considers to be a false $20 million cost attached, while working on a broader fix.

"This is a great victory ... (but now) we just have to continue working on it," Pryce said.

jriskind@dispatch.com

 

 
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