Politico: Trump's Proposed Housing Budget Would Increase Rent Burden for Low Income New Yorkers
FRIDAY, MAY 26, 2017

Legal Aid’s Judith Goldiner spoke to Politico about President Trump’s proposed HUD budget cuts and how this would impact NYCHA residents and other low-income New Yorkers.

Trump's proposed housing budget would increase rent burden for low-income New Yorkers
By Sally Goldenberg
May 23, 2017

Low-income New Yorkers living in federally-subsidized housing would have to pay a larger portion of their earnings toward rent under a measure included in President Donald Trump's proposed $40.7 billion housing budget unveiled Tuesday.

The change would impact 113,500 New York tenants who currently pay no more than 30 percent of their annual incomes in rent. Those tenants would be charged up to 35 percent if the provision is enacted.

Rachel Fee, executive director of the New York Housing Conference, estimated the shift would cost $55 more each month for renters.

"It's a big deal for New York, because we have so much [federally] assisted housing. It's also a big deal because people who are in that housing don't have extra money to spare, especially the seniors," she said. "Thirty [percent] is already a large enough burden when the cost of living is so high and your income is so low."

Judith Goldiner of the Legal Aid Society called the proposal "reverse Robin Hood."

"To add another 5 percent just makes it very difficult for people to put food on their table, to put clothes on their kids' backs," she added.

The shift is proposed for residents in three types of programs: project-based rental assistance, elderly housing known as Section 202 and housing for people with disabilities.

New York is home to 98,700 project-based rental assistance households, and another 14,800 homes use subsidies for the senior and disability programs, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Fee said senior tenants in the 202 housing program often rely solely on Social Security and earn $13,300 annually.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development's budget notes that Housing Secretary Ben Carson may continue to grant hardship exemptions under the proposal.

"This budget reflects this administration’s commitment to fiscal responsibility while continuing HUD’s core support of our most vulnerable households,” Carson said in a press release. “We will work very closely with Congress to support the critical work of our agency as we vigorously pursue new approaches to help work-eligible households achieve self-sufficiency.”

While the shift in rent would not immediately impact residents living in buildings run by the cash-strapped New York City Housing Authority, language in the budget does not rule that out as a possibility in the future.

"The department does not plan to implement this provision in the HCV [Housing Choice Voucher] or public housing programs in 2018, but nonetheless requests authority for this change across core rental assistance programs," it reads.

An agency spokesman did not return a call for comment.

The city's housing authority, grappling with cuts to its capital budget and Section 8 voucher program, nevertheless issued a warning about possible increases in tenant costs.

"The Trump Administration's devastating budget is an assault on public housing and affordable housing as we know it in this city," NYCHA chairwoman Shola Olatoye said. "For the 1 in 14 New Yorkers who call NYCHA home, the proposed rent increase will mean that families barely making ends meet, as it is, will be forced to choose between putting food on the table and paying the rent."

She promised to "vigorously fight any and all cuts," though the de Blasio administration has so far refused to outline how it would compensate for lost funds, arguing that doing so would be tantamount to acquiescence.

Housing providers who rely on federal funding also lamented flat reimbursements in the budget proposal.

"The buildings would be harder to maintain. The operating money is used to pay the supers so without that, we don't have staff to do that work," said Sandy Myers of Selfhelp Community Services.

Also at risk would be on-site social workers that Selfhelp funds for elderly tenants, she said.

"Thirty percent is considered affordable for a reason," she said. "Especially in New York, anything more than that they're going to have to choose between paying the rent, buying food, buying their medications and just overall living expenses."

This article originally appeared in Politico.