While this event is not in our area, it impacts many of our neighbors – and gives residents a chance to publicly tell city officials what they think about the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s so-called “rightsizing” policy, which moves those participating in the city’s Section 8 housing program into smaller apartments.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and a number of lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke and Council Members Mathieu Eugene and Jumaane Williams, will host an “educational dialogue” with HPD Commissioner Vicki Been on the downsizing policy that was instituted earlier this year following federal budget cuts stemming from the government shutdown in late 2013.
The meeting will be held tomorrow, July 16, at 6pm in the courtroom of Brooklyn Borough Hall (209 Joralemon Street).
Tenants, community leaders, and legislators have voiced numerous concerns over who the HPD chose to move into smaller apartments – and those to whom they delivered eviction notices. Residents were often given just one month to leave the home where many had lived for years.
In a press release issued by the borough president’s office, Adams said:
Over the last several months, I have heard from numerous Brooklynites about their concerns regarding this policy at HPD. Keeping New Yorkers in their homes, and treating them with the respect and dignity they deserve, is an upmost priority, especially as we combat the citywide affordable housing crisis. It is my hope that this dialogue will lead to some positive steps forward in pursuing this essential mission.
And, in the same release, Been said:
HPD appreciates the chance to discuss last year’s policy changes to our Section 8 program that were forced by federal budget cuts. We value this dialogue and appreciate the opportunity that the borough president and other elected leaders have provided.
The meeting will be filmed by Brooklyn Independent Media, which will air it on its network Thursday at 8pm, and the forum will be available to access on Brooklyn Independent Media’s site the same day.
A number of elected officials, including Adams, Clarke, and Eugene, wrote a letter in April to the HPD commissioner, expressing what they said was “deep concern” over the new Section 8 policy.
According to the April 23 letter to the HPD:
This new policy has a disastrous effect on the constituents we represent, especially the elderly, the ill and other vulnerable populations.
The Section 8 program has been the bedrock of the city’s affordable housing program for generations. Thousands of city residents have been able to create a home for themselves and their families in the neighborhoods of their choice thanks to the flexibility and freedom offered through the Section 8 program. Many of these families and individuals have been living in their homes for decades. It is important that the integrity of this program be maintained and that the constituents it is meant to serve are not forgotten.
We understand that HPD implemented a policy of “downsizing” Section 8 tenants to smaller apartments in response to a $35 million budget shortfall precipitated by the federal budget sequester which was in place last fall. Now that the federal sequester has been lifted, and the budget cuts have been mostly restored, we hope HPD can work with the requisite federal authorities to minimize the budgetary necessity for the “downsizing” policy to remain in place. Our offices are willing to work together with you to achieve this, and to ensure that HPD has the budget it needs to continue to carry out its mandate.
We are also very concerned about the manner in which HPD has implemented this new policy over the past few months. There are very legitimate questions about the fairness, transparency and consistency of how “downsizing” decisions are being made and the actual impact they have on affected tenants.
There has been a great deal of miscommunication and lack of clarity between residents and HPD over the eviction notices they receive informing them to vacate their apartments within 30 days. In many instances, HPD has not given these residents any official notice, and they are instead relying on notices given to them by their building’s management. This crucial lack of information has serious consequences: residents who seek to appeal HPD’s decision to evict them have only 15 days to file such an appeal, but without any official notice, they are left without any clear guidance on when their time for appeal has expired.
In the same vein, giving residents only 15 days to file an appeal, and only 30 days to vacate their homes, is unduly burdensome on the predominantly elderly, ill and vulnerable populations who comprise most of the Section 8 program’s participants. Placing the burden entirely on these residents to compile all the necessary papers to file their appeals and, in the case of relocating, to pack up a life’s worth of possessions in such short windows of time without any assistance or clear guidance from HPD, is not only wrong but also callous. Clearly, we can do better than this.
Lastly, we are concerned about who is being selected for “downsizing” and who is allowed to stay in their existing homes. To date, HPD has not clearly defined the standards for which residents are being “downsized” and what criteria have been used to make that determination. This lack of transparency and clarity is adding to the significant frustration felt by our constituents who are facing eviction and relocation.
As HPD further clarifies these standards, we urge you to consider the plight of those residents who are facing extreme hardships as a result of this new policy. Unlike most city agencies, HPD’s actions and policies affect people in their homes – where memories are made, families are born and lives are lived. HPD must recognize this and treat Ccty residents who use its programs with the dignity and respect that befits this special bond. We respectfully request that HPD immediately cease implementation of this disastrous policy until all of the issues we’ve raised here can be adequately addressed.