Elected officials, HPD at odds over ‘Downsizing’ for Section 8 tenants
A coalition that includes several Brooklyn officials held a demonstration at City Hall on Thursday against a policy its members say will cause hardships to large numbers of elderly, medically challenged and single-parent tenants of the city’s Section 8 program.
The Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) is targeting tenants who they say are “over-housed,” or living in an apartment HPD says is too big for that particular tenant.
A majority of these people, says Harri Molese of Housing Alliance Against Downsizing (HAAD), are “elderly women in their 70s, 80s and 90s who raised families in larger apartments and voluntarily moved to one-bedroom apartments when their children left and their family composition changed.
“HPD now says they must move to a 0-bedroom [studio] apartment in 30 days. Who will pay for their move? What will happen to their belongings?” She added that the tenants must pay the same share of the overall rent (the rest is paid by HPD) as they did in their previous, larger unit.
Before July 15, 2013, she adds, HPD voucher contracts gave one person the right to occupy a one-bedroom unit, and a parent and child to live together in a two-bedroom unit. “As of July 15, 2013, HPD changed the rules and the apartment occupancy guidelines,” she says.
For its part, HPD on its website that federal budget cuts and the federal sequester have created an approximate $35 million shortfall in HPD’s Section 8 program, which is funded by the federal government.
Without cost-cutting measures, the HPD says, a “worst-case scenario” of HPD having to cut its “terminate vouchers” for several thousand tenants might occur. The HPD also says that reasonable accommodations could be made for disabled or elderly households who provide documentation from a medical professional.
In the Section 8 program, low-income tenants get vouchers for a certain amount of rent. Unlike project tenants, they live in private housing, but HPD (or, in some cases, the New York City Housing Authority) pays the balance of their rent.
Sarah Anders, a spokeswoman for Councilmember Ben Kallos (D-Upper East Side), one of the organizers of the protest, says that Brooklyn supporters of the “Rally Against Section 8 Downsizing” included Councilmembers Robert Kornegy (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant/Crown Heights) and Jumaane Williams (D-Flatbush/East Flatbush). Several other Brooklyn officials have informally endorsed the movement, she added.
This writer, a former management assistant for the Section 8 program in Brooklyn, recalls that the tenant mix for Section 8 was somewhat different than that of the projects – fewer welfare recipients and more immigrants. Among the neighborhoods with heavy numbers of Section 8 tenants are Flatbush, Crown Heights, East New York, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Borough Park, Brighton Beach and Williamsburg.
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