Sixty-four families who live in public housing in Baltimore earn more money than is permitted by the program's income eligibility requirements, new data from a federal inspector general's audit shows.
The families, who represent less than 1 percent of public housing units maintained by the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, earned a combined $798,563 over the income limits, according to an analysis of the data by The Baltimore Sun.
Income caps for public housing vary by city and family size. For example, in Baltimore, a family of four can earn no more than $44,200 to qualify for housing.
The inspector general for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which reviewed eligibility for 2014, found that some families in Baltimore were only a few hundred dollars over the limit. Others substantially exceeded it — in one case by more than $82,000.
The average amount of the overage was about $12,500, according to the analysis.
The data stem from an audit released by the inspector general in July. It estimated the federal government would spend $104 million a year on families earning more that the income caps, money "that otherwise could have been used to house low-income families." The audit recommended the agency take steps to move the families to private housing.
But the inspector general's office did not provide local data at the time. That information was released later after news organizations, including The Baltimore Sun, requested it under the Freedom of Information Act.
A HUD spokesman said the agency is taking additional steps to encourage local authorities "to establish policies that will reduce the number of over income families in public housing."
A spokeswoman for the Baltimore housing authority said it is the agency's policy to allow families earning above the income threshold to remain in the units until they are ready to move to private housing. The agency said those families met the requirements when they were admitted to the program.
"These families usually stabilize the community and serve as role models for other residents," the agency said in a statement. "Those families are permitted to remain in their HABC units until they determine that they can handle paying non-subsidized rent.