PRESS RELEASE | February 20, 2014
New York – Governor Cuomo released the 30-day amendments to his executive budget legislation late Thursday night, which included a major proposal to close a loophole in the rental assistance program for low-income people living with HIV/AIDS that has pushed thousands back into homelessness. Governor Cuomo and the legislature must agree on a final FY14-15 budget before the start of the state fiscal year on April 1.
“Because of Governor Cuomo’s leadership, thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS in New York are breathing a sigh of relief that soon we won’t need to constantly worry about losing our homes,” said Wanda Hernandez, VOCAL-NY’s Board Chair who pays 73% of her SSDI income towards rent and is currently facing eviction. “I’ve spent years choosing what essential needs to skip in order to pay my rent, whether it’s buying groceries, basic toiletries, doing laundry or even keeping my lights turned on. Governor Cuomo’s proposal would enable me to not only stay out of the shelter system and take care of my health, but also live a life of basic dignity.”
Working together, Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio reached an agreement to implement the affordable housing protection 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 for the rent cap 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 avoidable Medicaid expenses.
Like other housing assistance programs, tenants in New York’s 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 the new policy would establish in the HIV/AIDS rental assistance program.
An estimated 10,000 – 12,000 New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS who are at-risk for homelessness will benefit from the affordable housing proposal, while hundreds more living in costly and dangerous shelters would 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.
“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 proposal 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