As New Yorkers collectively strive to stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the need for a safe and stable roof overhead has never been more important. Nonprofit housing providers and community development corporations (CDCs) are on the front lines of the fight to protect these homes, ensuring the continued provision of quality housing and services for thousands of low-income and vulnerable New Yorkers across the state.
But these providers will soon face severe financial pressure themselves, creating a cycle in which tenants struggle to pay rent due to loss of income and decreasing cash flows render providers unable to serve their tenants. Statewide emergency relief measures are needed to keep these vital organizations funded and to support them in adapting to fill the gaps left by schools and other vital community centers.
The good news is that this particular challenge is solvable: a bill being considered by the State Legislature – known as Home Stability Support (HSS) – would help do exactly this. HSS is a statewide program that would provide rental assistance for New Yorkers who qualify for public assistance benefits and who face eviction, homelessness, or loss of housing due to domestic violence or hazardous living conditions.
HSS would ensure that our state’s most vulnerable residents can continue to afford rent and remain in secure homes in these uncertain times and even after the current eviction moratorium ends — in turn, helping to keep all New Yorkers safe as we follow mitigation measures. Just as crucially, HSS would also protect housing providers and help to maintain their stability now that it’s most needed.
While the moratorium on evictions during this period is crucial as livelihoods are upended on an unprecedented scale, we must also ensure continued income for affordable housing owners working to ensure healthy homes for tenants without their normal rental income. HSS would provide a financial lifeline at this moment when these organizations, operating on thin margins in the best of times, are stepping up to provide even more for the populations they serve, and with fewer resources.
Beyond nonpayment of rent, which will only increase as the pandemic continues, these organizations are seeing budget impacts due to government contract requirements that they might no longer be able to meet, staff shortages, and the need to adapt and redeploy their staff to meet the constantly changing needs of their tenants. This crisis is unfolding at an alarming rate and changing our social reality seemingly by the hour – but we do have tools to help our service providers on the front lines aiding residents in this crisis.
New York must fund Housing Stability Support in the State budget, which is expected to be finalized imminently. Already vitally needed before this crisis, HSS can help prevent family homelessness from skyrocketing in our state as more and more livelihoods are threatened. We urge New York to step up for our housing providers and tenants, whose financial security, health, and safety are at risk more than ever before.
Judi Kende is vice president and New York market leader of Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit housing organization and a leading organization of the Family Homelessness Coalition.