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City Agrees To Ease Downsizing Burden On Section 8 Residents

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Jumaane Williams
Following a meeting lawmakers and city housing officials held last week in regards to the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development‘s contentious decision this year to move Section 8 residents into smaller housing in light of federal budget cuts, the HPD has agreed to reform its “right-sizing” policy that garnered much vitriol from city denizens to legislators.

In the wake of budget cuts stemming from the 2013 federal government shutdown, HPD began moving individuals living in Section 8 housing to often drastically smaller units – or evicting them altogether. Among a litany of complaints about the policy, lawmakers pointed out in an April 23 letter to the HPD that residents have reported not being given any notice from the city that they would have to move and instead were only informed about the decision from their building’s management. In addition, residents often were given just 30 days to move from the places many people have called home for decades.

Outrage over the policy prompted last week’s dialogue (a video of which can be seen here) at Brooklyn Borough Hall with  Brooklyn Borough President Eric AdamsHPD Commissioner Vicki Been, a number of lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke and Council Members Mathieu Eugene and Jumaane Williams, and residents from throughout the borough.

Williams, chairman of the Council’s Housing and Buildings Committee, and Bronx Councilman Ritchie Torres, chairman of the Council’s Committee on Public Housing, announced after the meeting that HPD has agreed to:

  • Extend the amount of time that regular voucher holders have to decide whether to pay additional rent or move to a right-sized apartment from 30 days, to one year from the date of the voucher holder’s annual recertification.
  • Participate in several town hall listening and education meetings, like the one held in Brooklyn. HPD is working to identify dates for future such meetings in other boroughs.
  • Revise notices that are being sent to voucher holders impacted by the policy change to clarify policies including how to request reasonable accommodations.

Additionally, Williams and Torres said that with the support of other city lawmakers, they have secured $250,000 to help voucher holders affected by policy change with moving expenses.  This funding was included in the city budget passed last month.

From a press release issued by Williams:

As chair of the council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings, my highest priority is to ensure that as an elected official, we do all we can to end the crisis of affordability in housing. Both the council’s Housing and Buildings Committee and Public Housing Committee held a hearing on HPD’s downsizing policies because of the myriad number of complaints we received from tenants, most of them senior citizens on fixed incomes, were unjustly being forced to move from their homes. The bottom line is that we need the federal government to increase funding to our city’s housing agencies, who have the responsibility for finding truly income-targeted housing for millions of New Yorkers in the most populous, highest density city in the nation. I fought hard to secure $250,000 in the City’s budget to subsidize moving expenses for voucher holders, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that agencies such as HPD are not put in a position to engage in downsizing due to agency finances. In the coming days, I’ll be contacting Congressional representatives and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to push for the funding that our city needs. I am pleased that we have been able to come to an agreement with HPD on critical reforms that will ease the burden on those most hurt by downsizing.

Photo via Brooklyn Independent Media.

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