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Last week brought a sweet Valentine to a group of 70 disabled and senior citizen tenants in Midtown. These tenants have been hanging by a thread since last summer, when their landlord announced that he had decided not to renew his Section 8 contract with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (City Limits Weekly #192). If the landlord opted out of the program, the tenants would have to move–or find some way to pay about $2,500 a month in rent.

But last fall, Congress gave HUD new flexibility (and new money) to negotiate. At a City Council hearing last week, federal officials announced they had struck a deal with this landlord that keeps the tenants in the building for at least seven more years.

HUD subsidizes 48,819 apartments in New York City through the Section 8 program, where poor tenants pay only 30 percent of their income in rent and the feds pick up the rest of the bill. But many of the 20-year contracts are now expiring. With a red-hot housing market, housing advocates fear that landlords will turn their backs on these deals, leaving thousands of poor tenants scrambling to find cheap housing.

Instead, HUD had more cheery news for the Council: Of the 730 contracts that have come up for renewal in the past three years in New York City, only 11 have opted out so far.

“Given the extremely high market rents, we're very concerned about opt-outs,” HUD multifamily housing director Deborah Van Amerongen told the Council. “But we're optimistic that this good experience will continue.”

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