April 28, 2010
New York, N.Y. -- The New York Senate passed legislation (S.2664/A.2565) today that would create an affordable housing protection for nearly 11,000 low-income New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS and their families at risk of becoming homeless. The bill first passed the Senate last July after an impassioned early morning speech by openly HIV-positive Senator Tom Duane, and has already passed the Assembly earlier this year.
"Senator Duane and his colleagues on both sides of the aisle are showing how government can protect the most vulnerable New Yorkers while reducing government waste. There's no reason to spend money on arrears and emergency shelter hotels when it's cheaper -- and better for our health -- to keep people living with AIDS in stable housing. I'm counting on Governor Paterson to make good on his commitment to me and other NYCAHN members to sign the bill when it reaches his desk," said Jim Lister, a NYCAHN leader and HASA client who pays 74% of his SSDI check towards rent each month.
Due to a loophole in the HIV/AIDS Services Administration's (HASA) rental assistance program, thousands of low-income people living with HIV/AIDS pay between 50-85% of their disability income (SSI, SSDI, Veteran's Benefits) towards rent each month, which leads to high rates of arrears, evictions and homelessness. Those who keep their homes are forced to choose between paying their rent or visiting the doctor, making co-pays, or buying groceries. This is the only low-income housing assistance program of its kind in the state that does not cap the tenant's rent contribution at 30% of their income.
"Paying over two-thirds of my disability check towards rent each month means real sacrifices. Not only do I walk everywhere because I can't afford subway fare, I walk in shoes that are worn through because I can't afford to replace them. I haven't bought new clothes in three years. I can't afford basic toiletries like toothpaste. I worry about getting to all my doctor's appointments and dealing with co-pays. And if this bill isn't signed into law soon, I worry about whether I can keep up with my rent and stay in my home," said NYCAHN leader Gerald DeYounge, who pays 68% of his SSDI check towards rent and was present for today's Senate vote.
An independent cost study by Shubert Botein Policy Associates concluded that the bill would produce direct and immediate cost savings within the AIDS housing budget. The study projected that the cost of implementing the affordable housing protection would be immediately offset by reduced arrears, evictions and emergency shelter placements.
NYCAHN has worked with Senator Duane and Assembly Member Glick to pass this legislation since 2006. Last September, the NYC City Council unanimously adopted a resolution introduced by Speaker Quinn and Council Member Mendez calling on Governor Paterson and the legislature to pass it into law. Governor Paterson has told NYCAHN leaders he would sign the bill when it reached his desk, in part due to the independent cost study showing the bill will save New York money.