Testimony to Joint Hearing by NYC Council Committee on General Welfare and Committee on Civil and Human Rights

September 15, 2020
Presented by Alyssa Keil
Director, HousingLink, New Destiny Housing

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. New Destiny Housing is a 26-year old nonprofit committed to ending the cycle of domestic violence and homelessness by connecting families to safe, permanent housing and services. New Destiny supports all of the legislation introduced today and thanks the Council for their work on behalf of our most vulnerable New Yorkers.

Most notably, I would like to address Intro 146 and the significant effect it would have on the lives of domestic violence survivors and their children. Domestic violence is the number one reason families become homeless in New York City. In FY2018, 12,541 people entered DHS’ shelter system due to domestic violence and 6,400 entered HRA’s separate DV shelter system.1  Yet, there are few housing resources made available for DV families, with the less-competitive city and state subsidies typically being the only option. As a result, these families struggle to find apartments below the fair market rent.

We know this first hand. For the past six years New Destiny, in partnership with the Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender Based Violence (ENDGBV), has provided housing assistance out of the City’s five Family Justice Centers. Our housing program, called HousingLink, connects victims of domestic violence with safe, permanent housing around New York City. Seventy-four percent of the vouchers our families have are CityFHEPS or state FEPS and they typically remain in shelter for months on end while our team searches for landlords that will accept this lower rental subsidy.

Bringing maximum rent allowances for CityFHEPS up to Fair Market Rent would provide far greater access to housing for low income New Yorkers like our HousingLink clients. According to the 2017 NYC Housing and Vacancy Survey, the vacancy rate in NYC is 3.63%, and as low as 1.18% for the most affordable apartments in the City. Simply stated, CityFHEPS voucher holders – and therefore most homeless DV survivors, are forced to compete in this incredibly tight market with a subsidy that is almost $400/month lower than Section 8.

New Destiny also supports the removal of time limits for participation in the CityFHEPS program. This too would put CityFHEPS holders on more equal footing with Section 8 holders and mitigates the risk of our families returning to shelter.

In order for CityFHEPS to be the impactful city-funded voucher program it was developed to be, we must ensure every family holding a voucher is able to utilize the assistance by aligning the voucher levels with the Fair Market Rate and eliminating the current time limit which places an unrealistic expectation on families.

New Destiny strongly encourages the council to pass Intro 146.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. I welcome any questions.

Note:
1. Office of the New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, Housing Survivors: How New York City Can Increase Housing Stability for Survivors of Domestic Violence

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