(Governor Cuomo’s press release announcing the agreement is available here.)
PRESS RELEASE | 2/13/14
Agreement will fix loophole in HIV/AIDS rental assistance program that denies tenants a “30% rent cap” affordable housing protection, leads to high rates of homelessness
An agreement by Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio will fix a fatal flaw in the rental assistance program for low-income New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS, which has suffered from high rates of arrears and housing loss. New York City will pay approximately two-thirds of the cost and the State will pay the remaining one-third, although the policy is expected to eventually pay for itself by reducing emergency housing placements and improving health outcomes.
“We are thrilled to see Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio working together to prevent homelessness for some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers,” said Jim Lister, a VOCAL-NY leader living with HIV/AIDS who pays 72 percent of his disability income towards rent. “I take 32 pills every day and have two and a half shelves full of medications in my kitchen. I don’t know how I would manage all of that and my other health needs if I was in a shelter, but that’s where I would end up if not for this agreement.”
Like other housing assistance programs, tenants in the HIV/AIDS rental assistance program are required to pay a portion of their rent if they receive outside income. Unlike other housing programs, however, tenants in the HIV/AIDS rental assistance program are required to spend upwards of 70 percent or more of their disability income towards rent. The standard policy in all other low-income housing programs is for tenants to pay no more than 30 percent of their income towards rent, which this new agreement would establish in the HIV/AIDS rental assistance program.
An estimated 12,000 New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS who are at-risk for homelessness will benefit from the agreement, while hundreds more living in costly and dangerous shelters will now be able to move out. The number of homeless people living with HIV/AIDS in commercial SROs used as emergency housing by the NYC HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) increased over 20% between December 2012 and December 2013, mirroring the broader pattern of rising homelessness under the Bloomberg administration.
“This is a big down-payment on Mayor de Blasio’s pledge to create affordable housing and reverse the record homelessness left behind by Michael Bloomberg,” said Wanda Hernandez, VOCAL-NY’s Board Chair who pays 73% of her SSDI income towards rent. “I’ve been in and out of housing court for the past year trying to hang onto my home and stay out of the shelter. This agreement is a lifeline for me and thousands of others in my situation.”
“Look no further than New York if you want to see some of the most progressive innovations in healthcare reform in the country,” said Reginald Brown, a VOCAL-NY leader who lost his home because he could not afford to pay over 60 percent of his disability income toward rent each month. “Governor Cuomo is leading the nation when it comes to recognizing that housing is healthcare for people living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic conditions.”
There is bipartisan support for this agreement in the legislature, which passed a bill that would accomplish the same goal in 2010 before it was vetoed by then Governor David Paterson following a misinformation campaign by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Rodriguez are the current sponsors of the rent cap bill (S.3022/A.7782).
Contact: Sean Barry, 646.373.3344