News Release: Blueprint for Post-Sandy Housing Aid

Hurricane Sandy evacuees, New York City Council Members, and advocates held a press conference at City Hall today to present a blueprint for dealing with the post-Sandy housing crisis.

The blueprint can be downloaded here. Below is the news release issued at today’s press conference:

For Immediate Release:  February 26, 2013

ADVOCATES AND COUNCILMEMBERS RELEASE BLUEPRINT FOR POST-SANDY HOUSING 

Thousands Still in Hotels and Temporary Housing Months after Storm

NEW YORK – Hurricane Sandy evacuees, New York City Council Members, community organizations, and advocates held a press conference on the steps of City Hall on Tuesday to present a blueprint for dealing with the post-Sandy housing crisis.

Four months after the hurricane, well over 2,000 displaced households are still living in temporary hotels, SROs, and shelters paid for by FEMA and the City of New York.  Recent reports have shown that affordable housing remains that biggest need for Sandy evacuees. Although the City has set up a “housing portal,” three-quarters of families that have applied had incomes too low to qualify.

“Four months after Hurricane Sandy, thousands of people are still scattered in hotels across the city. The City must work with the federal government to effectively utilize Sandy Aid and immediately move families into stable housing,” said Giselle Routhier, Policy Analyst with the Coalition for the Homeless.  “Long-term, we need a new focus on finding affordable homes for low-income families displaced by the storm and for the record number of New Yorkers who were homeless even before Sandy hit.”

The organizations, the Coalition for the Homeless, Legal Aid Society, VOCAL-NY, New York Communities for Change, Legal Services NYC, Occupy Sandy and Alliance for a Just Rebuilding  released a blueprint for post-Sandy housing that includes both short and long-term needs:

Immediate Needs

1.  The City should immediately request at least 10,000 Housing Choice (Section 8) Vouchers, as allowed under the federal recovery bill to help evacuees secure housing as quickly as possible – and to guarantee long-term housing stability for low-income families.

2.  Allow households who were living in marginal housing without a standard lease prior to Sandy to present other documentation to qualify for FEMA housing assistance.

3.  Target all affordable housing resources – including NYCHA public housing, Section 8 resources and City-subsidized housing units – to help displaced New Yorkers, including those that were homeless before Hurricane Sandy.

4.  The City and State must create a new local rent subsidy, modeled on Section 8, that will provide much-needed additional resources to thousands of displaced and homeless families.

Long Term Needs

1.  New housing construction must include real affordable options for lowest income New Yorkers.

2.  Immediate and long-term repairs must be made to public housing and other supportive and subsidized housing damaged by the storm.

“Affordable housing has long been a huge issue for New Yorkers, and even more so following Sandy. When Hurricane Sandy victims are time and again finding that their incomes are too low to qualify for affordable housing, we must take action,” said Councilmember Brad Lander.

“As a Sandy survivor who has been without a home since October 29th, it has been a continuous struggle to get back to normal,” said Nateisha Laws, a Far Rockaway evacuee and mother of three. “Families have spent the past four months in evacuation centers, shelters, and hotels. Low-income families have not found any affordable apartments through FEMA. Many of us do not qualify for Section 8, HPD, or NYCHA housing, and we have not been offered any other housing options or information.”

“Nearly four months after Superstorm Sandy hit, the need for immediate action to address the housing needs of displaced New Yorkers is more urgent than ever,” said Steve Banks, Attorney-in-Chief of the Legal Aid Society. “The city must prioritize using federal and city housing resources for displaced households and for the all-time record homeless shelter population, including allocating existing federal housing vouchers and temporary FEMA rental assistance as a bridge to long-term federal vouchers.”

The organizations holding the event are members of the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding, which brings together labor unions, community, faith-based, environmental  and policy organizations to address immediate relief and long-term rebuilding issues in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. They are committed to a just, equitable and sustainable recovery and rebuilding process that creates new economic opportunity for all New Yorkers, particularly low-income communities and communities of color.