Memorandum of Support — S6853A (Kavanagh)

June 7, 2021

New Destiny Housing Corporation supports the passage of S6853A and the introduction and passage of a same-as legislation in the Assembly. S6853A would maximize the effectiveness of several critical programs that aim to prevent homelessness and increase housing stability during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

New Destiny Housing is a 27-year-old nonprofit committed to ending the cycle of domestic violence and homelessness. We develop new affordable housing with voluntary on-site services for survivors and, through our rapid rehousing program, HousingLink, we connect victims of domestic violence with safe, permanent housing in New York City.

Over 90,000 New Yorkers experienced homelessness on a single night in January 2020 and more than half of them were families with children.1 Domestic violence is consistently the number one driver of family homelessness in New York City, with over 41 percent of families entering the city shelter system due to abuse.2

Despite the scale of this crisis, there are few housing resources for domestic violence survivors and their children. The Family Homelessness and Eviction Prevention Supplement (FHEPS) and CityFHEPS are often the only alternatives; however, because their values have trailed the fair market housing rate, housing options have been highly limited for program participants and the vouchers tend to go unused for years. Of the 2,727 households that exited New York City domestic violence emergency shelters in 2020, only 9 moved into permanent housing with a NYS FHEPS voucher.3 That is less than 1 percent.

We know this firsthand. For the past six years, New Destiny has provided housing assistance to victims of domestic violence in New York City through HousingLink, our rapid rehousing program. We have seen how FHEPS recipients struggle to find apartments. One HousingLink participant, a domestic violence survivor and FHEPS voucher holder, shared her story:

“While in shelter, I started looking for apartments. I looked at one after the other, and was constantly turned down because landlord refused to take my voucher. I soon realized that finding an apartment is the hardest challenge and is the number one cause of why most of the DV victims go back to their abuser! It was scary and nerve-wracking to not know where my children or I would live after our 6 months in the domestic violence shelter was finished.”

COVID-19 has exacerbated housing insecurity to historic levels. As countless New Yorkers face mounting rent arrears, the temporary eviction moratoria have been critical to keep them in their homes, but they are not a permanent solution. The inability of struggling tenants to afford rent directly impacts landlords and the already limited affordable housing stock. The State can provide much-needed rent relief to address housing stability, not just during the pandemic, but long-term.

For this reason, New Destiny supports the passing of S6853A. The bill would significantly enhance multiple state-funded rental assistance programs and ensure that the new COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program (CERAP) is distributed efficiently.

Firstly, the bill would increase the rent ceiling for FHEPS to Fair Market Rent, as determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Bringing maximum rent allowances for FHEPS up to Fair Market Rent would align it with market conditions and provide far greater access to housing for low-income New Yorkers, like our HousingLink clients.

The bill would also make important amendments to the social service law, making existing rental assistance programs more accessible, and able to address growing economic need. Specifically, the bill would:

  • Waive the requirement for a housing court proceeding for rental arrears grants and ongoing rental assistance, until the end of the state of emergency
  • Ending the repayment agreement requirement for state-funded rental assistance programs, including one-time arrear and utility payments, until the end of the state of emergency

In January 2021, New Destiny and over 100 organizations, led by the New York City Eviction Prevention Roundtable, sent a sign-on letter to state leadership urging that these common-sense reforms to the social service law and the FHEPS voucher be made. These changes have the potential to profoundly reduce housing instability in New York State, making assistance available to more people and solve longstanding problems with the court-centered eviction process, particularly the cost, time and trauma required to resolve non-payment cases. It is our hope that these important changes can be extended even after the current crisis.

The bill also makes critical amendments to the new CERAP that expand eligible coverage and align it with guidance set by the US Treasury Department. The legislation would eliminate restrictions that limit eligibility and delays rental assistance to occupants of federal or state funded subsidized housing and increases the limit on rental payments to 18 months.

We support S6853A and urge the State Legislature to sign it into law. It is time for New York State to take long overdue steps to address housing instability and give domestic violence survivors the tools to break the cycle of homelessness and abuse.

For more information contact Gabriela Sandoval Requena at gsrequena@newdestinyhousing.org

 

Footnotes

1 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, The 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress, 2021, https://www.huduser.gov/portal/sites/default/files/pdf/2020-AHAR-Part-1.pdf
2 NYC Comptroller, Housing Survivors: How New York City Can Increase Housing Stability for Survivors of Domestic Violence, 2019, https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/housing-survivors/
3 NYC Department of Social Services, 2020 Annual Report on Exits from NYC Domestic Violence Shelters, 2021, https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/hra/downloads/pdf/local-law-83-dv-exit-report-2020.pdf

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.