AIDS activists claimed victory Thursday afternoon after the Bloomberg administration scrapped plans to cut $10 million from the HIV/AIDS ServicesAdministration. The budget ax would have eliminated 248 caseworkers who help poor people living with AIDS get assistance with health, food and housing. The caseworkers’ positions are apparently safe now. On Tuesday, the advocacy group Housing Works sued to stop the cuts. Attorneys for the Bloomberg administration on Thursday morning told U.S. District Court Judge Cheryl Pollak they were withdrawing the cuts, according to Housing Works’ Senior Staff Attorney Armen Merjian.
Despite neighborhoods littered with vacant homes and sale prices that dropped dramatically in the past three years, more Americans are spending more of their money on housing expenses than ever before. A report by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies found 18.6 million American households –renters and homeowners alike – spend more than half their income on housing, up from 13.8 million in 2001. Dedicating more than 30 percent of income to rent or mortgage is considered unhealthy. The study, Harvard’s annual State of the Nation’s Housing report found that as the housing market slowly recovers, it is getting harder for low-income people to afford their homes. More homeowners and renters are devoting half or more of their income to housing costs than ever before.
It’s been six months since the New York City Housing Authority went back on a promise to help 2,600 low-income New Yorkers pay the rent. In that time 27 families that left the city’s shelters for homes of their own have returned to the shelters, homeless again, according to Judith Goldiner of the Legal Aid Society. And thousands who thought they had a life line are still waiting for help.Nilsa Melendez is one of them. The 44-year-old receptionist fled an abusive marriage and has been living in a shelter with her 14-year-old daughter since November 2008. In August 2009 she finally got a Section 8 rental assistance voucher.
In a move signaling the biggest changes since the advent of public housing 70 years ago, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development told Congress last week that it wants to radically overhaul how the nation houses its poorest citizens.The proposed changes aim to increase the social and physical mobility of public housing residents and turn existing public housing developments into mixed income communities with market rate tenants. The changes also aim to attract private investment to those existing public housing developments. Such investment would help pay for costly, long-delayed repairs, which the agency projects total $20 billion. Public housing that receives such investment would remain under the control of the local housing authority for 30 years.In testimony before the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee last week, HUD Commissioner Shaun Donovan outlined the Preservation, Enhancement and Transition of Rental Assistance Act (PETRA). Under the voluntary program, local housing authorities would no longer get one stream of federal funding to run dedicated developments and another to administer portable voucher programs. Instead all public housing residents who meet income limits would be given rental vouchers.
In addition to shoddy mortgages, deed theft and usurious payday loans, there’s another predator sucking money out of low income neighborhoods of color: debt buyers. According to a study released this week by the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project these firms – which buy credit card, fines or other debts with the aim of collecting them from debtors – regularly file fraudulent lawsuits against low income, elderly and disabled New Yorkers. In many cases, the report alleges, debts have already been paid off or forgiven. A spokesman for DBA International, an industry association did not return a phone call and email request for comment. Between January 2006 and July 2008 the top such firms operating in NYC collected more than $1 billion through court judgments.
A study released today by the Institute for Children and Poverty, a research and advocacy organization, finds homelessness is a major factor in the lives of New Yorkers. A third of New Yorkers think about homelessness everyday; 15 percent have hosted someone who might otherwise have been homeless in the past six months; and 20 percent of poll respondents “perceived themselves as being at risk for homelessness,” with black and Latino respondents and Bronx residents more likely to fear losing their homes. The study is the result of a random telephone survey of 1,000 people conducted in January, according to ICP. It has a margin of error of 3.1 percent. According to the survey, New Yorkers felt city government needed to do more, with sevenof ten rating the job as poor or fair.