The Brooke Amendment And Section 8 Housing: Revisited

7 05 2019

 By Timothy D. Naegele[1]

This is the title of my newest law review article[2] that discusses the landmark laws enacted by Congress: the “Brooke Amendment” with respect to public housing, and the “Section 8” housing program that was intended to extend the benefits of the Brooke Amendment to housing wherever it is located. Put succinctly, the Brooke Amendment capped the payment of rent at twenty-five percent of a person’s income, with the federal government paying the difference; and it provided funds to improve public housing, and to assure the safety of its residents.

Section 8 was envisioned as giving “vouchers” to those who qualified for public housing, and permitting them to find housing anywhere, with the federal government subsidizing their rents when the twenty-five-percent-of-income threshold was passed. Taken together, the Brooke Amendment and Section 8 were America’s answer to the needs of decent housing for its poor. Today, there are two million voucher families.[3]

The United States has an unenviable record of providing affordable housing for its poor, much less for the poorest of the poor—America’s homeless. They have lived on the streets and wherever they could find shelter; and they have been shunned as “lepers” and cast aside to fend for themselves. Many have been and are in desperate need of mental health care and treatment; and they are not far removed from the poor of Calcutta, who have been chronicled down through the decades.

This is particularly true of the elderly, disabled and families with young children, who have slipped through the “cracks” and the societal “safety nets,” to the extent that such protections still exist. However, the elderly of the Boston area were singled out for humane, dignified and uplifting treatment and protection in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when work began by Senator Edward W. Brooke and me in the U.S. Congress—through its two banking committees—to address their plight.

Since then, billions of dollars have been expended, and millions of poor Americans have been helped, which tragically has only scratched the surface—as the numbers of chronically poor and those who are unable to afford private rents continue to rise in the United States. The ever-accelerating cost of housing, and the short supply of existing affordable housing units, have priced many Americans with even good jobs out of decent housing across America, in such areas as “Silicon Valley” (or the San Francisco Bay Area).

They have lived in campers, recreational vehicles (“RVs”) or wherever they could find to sleep. The effects on the poorest of the poor—those farther down the economic totem pole—have been catastrophic, especially in those areas of the United States where inclement weather is a major factor. Many have died, or been victimized, as homeless shelters have been inadequate or closed entirely for various reasons (e.g., funding and/or staffing shortages) in areas where they are needed the most.

Yesterday’s problems are compounded by staggering mental health issues relating to America’s poor and homeless; violent gang activities such as MS-13; dilapidated public housing projects, which may not be helped by the infusion of more federal funds; Social Security retirement benefits that have not kept pace with the costs of food, housing and the medical needs of America’s elderly poor; the influx of illegal immigrants from other countries, who have few discernible skills and nowhere to live; the shortage of qualified professional staff members who can deal effectively with such problems and challenges, and truly make a positive difference; and the increasing demand by most Americans for affordable housing, which has outstripped the available supply.

One size does not fit all. What works in one community may not work in another. And simply throwing money at the staggering problems might not be any solution at all. U.S. taxpayers may say “enough is enough,” and they might be right—at least with respect to their own self-interests. Money cannot be wasted if federal housing programs are to enjoy broad support from the American people. The tasks today are daunting, but the United States and Americans have risen to the challenges of the past, and may be expected to do so in the future.


Ed Brooke

[Senator Edward W. Brooke (1919-2015)]


© 2019, Timothy D. Naegele

[1]  Timothy D. Naegele was counsel to the United States Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and chief of staff to Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal recipient and former U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass). He and his firm, Timothy D. Naegele & Associates, specialize in Banking and Financial Institutions Law, Internet Law, Litigation and other matters (see and Timothy D. Naegele Resume-19-4-29). He has an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), as well as two law degrees from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, and from Georgetown University. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, where he received the Joint Service Commendation Medal (see, e.g., Mr. Naegele is an Independent politically; and he is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Finance and Business. He has written extensively over the years (see, e.g.,, and can be contacted directly at

[2]  See Timothy D. Naegele [NOTE: To download The Banking Law Journal article, “The Brooke Amendment And Section 8 Housing: Revisited,” please click on the link to the left of this note]; see also (“Edward W. Brooke Is Dead”) and (“Edward Brooke”)

[3]  But see (“Despite new law, landlords continue to turn away applicants with Section 8 vouchers”) and (“LA Wants To Stop Landlords From Rejecting Section 8 Vouchers”) and (“LA considers prohibiting landlords from rejecting housing assistance vouchers”—”Nearly half of the people getting a Section 8 voucher in L.A. will end up losing it because they can’t find any landlords who will rent to them”) and (“End Section 8 housing discrimination”—”[A]t a time when cities and counties are increasingly relying on vouchers to help reduce homelessness, many landlords won’t even consider leasing to tenants whose rent would be paid, in whole or in part, by the government. The problem is particularly acute in cities with high rents and low vacancies. In Los Angeles, nearly half the people trying to use a Section 8 voucher had it expire in 2017 before they could find a place to live, up from 18% in 2011. Several cities, including San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco, have already banned discrimination against tenants with Section 8 and other housing vouchers.  . . . But California can’t end housing discrimination on a city-by-city basis. State lawmakers need to go further and pass Senate Bill 329, which would enact the ban statewide.  . . . Landlords argue that high denial rates aren’t driven by discrimination but by the paperwork, inspections and restrictions that come with rental subsidy programs. For example, it’s hard to raise the rent, even modestly, on voucher tenants. Plus, they note, the supposed “market rent” the federal government is willing to cover is often too low in California’s overheated markets, where the bigger problem is a lack of affordable housing units”) and (“Boston receives 1,000 housing vouchers for homeless”) and (“NY Landlords Can’t Discriminate Against Section 8 Anymore”) and (“Chicago’s Section 8 Vouchers Increasing In Black Communities, Declining In White Neighborhoods”) and (“D.C. nonprofit offers online fair housing course designed to prevent discrimination by landlords”)

%d bloggers like this: