New HUD Plan Could Mean Disaster For Poor; People Will Have to Choose Between Higher Rent or Moving
MONDAY, AUGUST 15, 2016

A new plan by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development could spell disaster for people in high poverty areas in New York City.

“The way the rule is written right now, you’ll have over 50,000 voucher holders having to choose between paying more in rent or moving,” Ellen Davidson, a Staff Attorney in the Civil Law Reform Unit, told the NY Daily News.

She noted HUD’s new rent estimates still count rapidly gentrified neighborhoods like Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and even parts of the South Bronx as “high poverty” when rents have skyrocketed there.

Legal Aid has asked HUD to exempt from the rule change New York and all other cities where the vacancy rate is lower than 5%.




New York Daily News
EXCLUSIVE: Explosion of homelessness predicted for Obama administration voucher plan to desegregate low-income tenants
By Greg B. Smith
August 14, 2016

A well-intentioned Obama administration move to combat segregation of the poor is a recipe for disaster in New York City, a growing chorus of critics says.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development wants to change the way it doles out housing vouchers to low-income tenants.

The idea is to break up concentrations of poverty in New York City and 30 other metro areas by paying less to subsidize apartments in high-poverty neighborhoods, and more in upper-income neighborhoods.

The hope is that it will shift low-income tenants into neighborhoods with lower crime and better schools — but a growing number of city critics say that won’t play in New York City.

In fact, they predict disaster, estimating that the change could wind up forcing 55,000 lower-income households now receiving vouchers out on the street.

In New York City, residents who receive federal housing vouchers are often segregated in high-poverty neighborhoods. The government wants to encourage integration of lower-income families into higher income areas by changing how it hands out subsidies, paying less in high-poverty neighborhoods and more in upper-income “high opportunity” neighborhoods. Critics say it won’t work in New York City, where the vacancy rate for extremely affordable housing ($800 per month rent) is 1.8%.

The entire New York City congressional delegation, led by Rep. Nydia Velazquez and Sen. Chuck Schumer, are sending a protest letter to HUD Monday — the final day for public comment about the rule change.

“Forcing this ‘one size fits all’ approach to the voucher program could leave thousands of New Yorkers facing an unfair choice between moving or paying more rent out of pocket,” Velazquez (D-N.Y.) said.

They were joined by the Legal Aid Society, the Community Services Society, the New York Housing Conference and several local politicians balking at the plan.

“It’s the single biggest threat to affordable housing in the city of New York right now,” said Councilman Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx), chairman of the Council Public Housing Committee.

“You think homelessness is bad now? Stay tuned.”

The change applies to Housing Choice Vouchers, also known as Section 8, which were originally supposed to help tenants move out of public housing into apartments of their own.

The problem was, many landlords in upper-income neighborhoods didn’t want these tenants, so Section 8 recipients often wound up clustered in poor neighborhoods. This is particularly true in New York City, which has more vouchers — 119,000 — than any other city in America.

New York also has one of the lowest vacancy rates for cheap apartments in the nation — a paltry 1.8% — making finding affordable housing tougher than scoring a seat on the subway at rush hour.

New York City Council member Ritchie Torres, District 15, Central Bronx, says HUD's plan is the biggest threat to the city's affordable housing. (Barry Williams/for New York Daily News)

Critics fear HUD’s plan will wind up forcing poor tenants to p ay more or face eviction.

“In New York, where there are few affordable housing options, the neediest residents ... will be faced with having either to pay more rent out of their own pocket or leaving the city altogether,” said Mayor de Blasio spokeswoman Aja Worthy-Davis.

Currently, low-income tenants must pay 30% of their income toward rent, and HUD subsidizes the rest to a limit, which is currently set by looking at the average rent in the entire metro area.

In New York, that includes all of the city — both poor and wealthy neighborhoods — and suburbs, which artificially inflates the rent.

HUD wants to make the maximum rent level eligible for subsidy to be zip-code specific. That would lower the amount paid out in high-poverty areas, where average rent is lower, and hike the subsidies in more affluent areas.

For instance, the rule change in zip code 10451 in the South Bronx would lower the average rent cutoff from $1,727 to $1,287. Tenants would have to either make up the $440-a-month difference, or move. At the same time, in the higher-income downtown Brooklyn zip code 11201, the average rent cutoff eligible for subsidy would rise from $1,815 to $2,365.

The problem is, there are few, if any, apartments available for rent at that level in that neighborhood.

“The way the rule is written right now, you’ll have over 50,000 voucher holders having to choose between paying more in rent or moving,” said Ellen Davidson, a staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society.

She noted HUD’s new rent estimates still count rapidly gentrified neighborhoods like Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and even parts of the South Bronx as “high poverty” when rents have skyrocketed there.

HUD cites the success of a pilot program in Dallas, where hundreds of tenants were able to move out of high-crime, poor areas into “high-opportunity” neighborhoods. But Dallas has a much higher vacancy rate for affordable apartments and a much smaller number of Section 8 recipients (28,000).

Legal Aid has asked HUD to exempt from the rule change New York and all other cities where the vacancy rate is lower than 5%.

“That would be something that we could take into consideration,” said Katherine O’Regan, assistant secretary for policy development and research at HUD.

O’Regan said a newly enacted law allows the city to leave the rent levels in place for existing tenants, though all new tenants would be subject to the new rules.

She said that after Monday’s deadline for submitting public comment, HUD will review all suggestions with the goal of unveiling the final rules in the fall.