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30 Percent Rent Cap Bill Passes State Assembly!

Posted by , January 12, 2010 at 7:23pm

In an incredible victory, the Assembly passed a bill Tuesday ensuring poor New Yorkers with HIV/AIDS have their rent capped at 30 percent rent of their incomes. This long-awaited 30 percent rent cap bill (A2566) would put the standards in line with all other rental assistance programs, and ensure people with AIDS aren’t living on $11 dollars a day. The bill passed 82-49.

The bill passed 52-1 in the Senate last year, after Sen. Tom Duane gave an emotional speech, and is expected to pass there again. According to a tweet by Michael Kink, Senate chief policy adviser and counsel (and former Housing Works staffer) “Senator Duane’s bill will be taken up in NYSenate pronto”

Then Gov. David Paterson needs to sign the bill, which he told advocates he will. This bill would extend this requirement to people living in HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) housing.

“Especially during these difficult economic times, we must protect out most vulnerable citizens. This legislation will keep those on fixed incomes living with HIV/AIDS from being priced out of affordable housing and ending up in emergency housing where their health and safety would be at risk,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan).

The bill passed through three committees and a floor vote in roughly 8 hours. During the floor vote, the bill went through Bill sponsor Assemblymember Deborah Glick was bombarded by seven naysayers during her testimony. But the pros outweighed the cons, ensuring the bill makes its way to the Senate.

There was a mix of arguments, mostly regarding the budget deficit. Some said it was a New York City problem and would be better dealt with in the City Council and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Assemblyman Joel Miller even argued that most people with HIV have been infected through their own actions and that they shouldn’t look to the state to pay for them.

“Some people contract HIV through blood transfusions and that’s a sad thing. But that’s overwhelmingly not how it happens. Now we’re going to say people are free to do what people want, and let’s impose another expense on New York State,” Miller said.

See video:

Glick rebutted Miller during the questioning, saying, “Even after 20 years I’m surprised that some things get said. Some of the most outrageous things that get said on this floor get said in relation to people with HIV.”

Glick told the Update, “Some people were choosing to miss the point and some people missed the point. There are always going to be those who object to finding housing subsidies and always those that raise specious arguments,” she said. “There’s a discrepancy. Anybody who’s involved in housing programs has a 30 percent rent cap. This is one group of people involved in a housing program who don’t get it. “

This bill would ensure that poor people with HIV/AIDS don’t have to pay more than 30 percent of their incomes towards rent—finally putting them in line with federal s housing requirements such as Section 8. Federally subsidized housing is capped at 30 percent of poor peoples incomes,since Congress understood that people shouldn’t have to choose between food, clothing and rent.

Road to victory

Should this bill pass, this will directly impact the lives of 11,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in New York, and would rectify an injustice.

The bill came about after the State and City announced that in October 2006, that beginning November 1, they would no longer honor the federal law that caps rental contribution at no more than 30 percent of income for approximately 2,200 HASA clients living in federally subsidized housing. Some clients would see a 200 percent increase in rent virtually overnight.

With a few days to spare, Housing Works and co-counsel Matthew Brinckerhoff rushed to federal court and secured an injunction against the proposed policy, preventing the rental increases. Thereafter, with the injunction in place, the City and State agreed to abandon the proposed policy and honor the 30 percent federal rent cap. They continue to do so to this day.

But the 30 percent cap only covered clients in federally funded housing, and that this essential protection should be extended to all HASA clients under New York State law as well. So Housing Works’ Legal Department worked with State legislators to draft a new State law extending the 30 percent rent cap to all HASA clients, and not merely those in federally funded housing.

Since then, HASA clients and advocates, including Housing Works and New York City AIDS Housing Network, have worked tirelessly to push its passage in the New York State Legislature alike.

The fight gained momentum in July, when Tom Duane, in a late night speech, convinced his colleagues to vote for the rent cap. The City Council made a statement of support, and soon thereafter Silver agreed to take the bill for a vote.

Opposition

The bill has been opposed by the Bloomberg administration, which argues that the bill would cost $15 million. HASA is a joint city and state program. However, analysis by Ginny Shubert shows that the bill would actually save the city and state money, by preventing rent arrears. Estimated direct savings of over $19 million from prevented evictions would easily outweigh the projected incremental rental costs of $16 million (5.6 percent of current rental assistance costs for this group), which would be shared between New York State and City. Approximately 23 percent of HASA clients on rental assistance are approved for rent arrears payments during the course of a year, at a cost of about $4.7 million. Many others simply lose their apartments and become homeless. The estimated cost of an eviction for a HASA client is $15,600, which includes the cost of an average length of stay in emergency housing, security deposits, and moving costs.

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