Testimony to Joint Hearing by Committee on Finance and Subcommittee on Capital Budget

May 21, 2020
Presented by Brenda Tong, Deputy Executive Director, New Destiny Housing Corporation

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today at this Joint Hearing regarding the capital budget of fiscal year 2021 on behalf of New Destiny Housing, a 26-year old nonprofit committed to ending the cycle of domestic violence and homelessness by connecting families to safe, permanent housing and services.  I am Brenda Tong, the Deputy Executive Director of New Destiny Housing.

As state budget cuts loom and federal support remains uncertain, the 40% cut to HPD’s capital budget in FY 20 and the 38% cut in FY 21 will devastate the City’s efforts to address its homelessness crisis.

New Destiny owns and operates six service-enriched affordable housing projects with homes set aside for homeless domestic violence survivors and their children residing in a domestic violence shelter. Three more projects are currently under construction and one is in pre-development, that together, will provide 456 affordable apartments for low-income households, at least half of which are families headed by formerly homeless domestic violence survivors.

New Destiny’s projects are one of the only sources of permanent, affordable housing intentionally developed to fill the dire need of housing for domestic violence survivors. These projects, which also provide affordable apartments for very low-income families, were made possible by the Supportive Housing Loan Program and other HPD capital funding sources. With such a drastic reduction in capital funding, New Destiny and other housing providers would be unable to finance, and to leverage other funding sources from the State, to develop critically needed homes for very low income and homeless New Yorkers.

Even prior to the pandemic, domestic violence was a major driver of family homelessness in New York City, accounting for at least 40% of homeless families using shelter. Survivors continue to be the third largest homeless subpopulation in the annual HUD Point-In-Time Count.  And, housing ranks as the highest unmet need in New York State for domestic violence survivors in the annual National Network to End Domestic Violence survey. Despite the size of this special population, often comprised of households with young children, they do not have equitable access to resources.

Now, with the added layer of mass economic insecurity created by the pandemic, housing built using the Supportive Housing Loan Program will be even more critical as New York comes out on the other side of this public health crisis.

One of the lessons we have learned from the pandemic is that “housing is healthcare.” The lack of available affordable housing forced survivors to choose between sheltering with their abuser or risk contracting a life-threatening illness in shelter. A safe, stable and affordable place to call home is the first line of defense in protecting vulnerable communities.

This is especially true for survivors of domestic violence and their children. One of the primary reasons low-income survivors stay with or return to an abusive partner is a lack of affordable housing.

Without a continued, significant investment in the development of housing for homeless New Yorkers, and those who will inevitably become homeless, the city will see its efforts to decrease the shelter and street homeless population fail and risk future spikes of COVID deaths and fatalities resulting from domestic violence.

During this crisis, the value of supportive housing for previously homeless domestic violence survivors and other low-income families has been demonstrated dramatically. The supportive housing community has adapted rapidly, developing innovative ways to deliver essential services, and keep their clients safe. New Destiny staff continues to provide crucial support to our families on everything from applying for unemployment, providing access to food resources, and facilitating the setup of internet and necessary technology needed for children to effectively engage in distance learning.

Finally, as we look toward recovery from the pandemic, we know that supportive housing development not only addresses a critical need – it also creates jobs both in construction and after projects are completed. As the State continues to loosen restrictions on businesses, construction will remain a cornerstone of the New York economy. A reduction in housing construction for low-income New Yorkers, many of whom are the essential workers who have kept New York going during the pandemic, as well as for homeless New Yorkers, the most vulnerable among us, would mean an even longer road to economic recovery for the city.   

The City and the Administration must preserve the capital budget for these critical housing programs.

We thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony today and are available for any questions you may have.

Contact Information:
Brenda Tong
New Destiny Housing
646-472-0262 x12

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