New York Housing Crisis: Low-Rent Apartment Stock Has Plummeted Since 2005, Stringer Says

Tenants and affordable housing advocates joined New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer in lower Manhattan Tuesday to call for rent law reform amid an affordability crisis in the city.

A comptroller’s office report titled “The Gap is Still Growing: New York City’s Continuing Housing Affordability Challenge,” builds off a 2014 analysis and reveals a sharp decline since 2005 in affordable housing for New Yorkers.

Stringer described the report’s findings as “very alarming.”

Coalition Testifies on Shelter Accommodations and Services for Those With Disabilities

Last week, Coalition for the Homeless and The Legal Aid Society presented testimony before the New York City Council’s Committee on General Welfare and Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities, and Addiction on shelter accommodations and services for those with disabilities. People with disabilities disproportionately experience poverty and severe rent burdens, and many of the 61,697 people sleeping in shelters each night have medical, psychiatric, or cognitive disabling conditions. The Council hearing emphasized that the Department of Homeless Services must meet the needs of people with disabilities in the shelter system, and also that the City must increase the supply of affordable, accessible permanent housing so New Yorkers with disabilities can move out of shelters and into homes of their own.

The testimony also highlighted the landmark Butler v. City of New York lawsuit, which was brought on behalf of clients of The Legal Aid Society, Coalition for the Homeless, and the Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York. The Butler settlement reached last year will better ensure that people with disabilities are able to access DHS shelters and receive reasonable accommodations consistent with laws governing them. As we testified:

In May 2015, The Legal Aid Society sued the City of New York and DHS on behalf of two clients who were attempting to enter an adult family shelter but were unable to do so because DHS did not accommodate their respective disabilities. On August 3, 2016, Legal Aid amended the complaint to include five additional named plaintiffs as well as the Coalition for the Homeless and Center for Independence of the Disabled New York (CIDNY) as institutional plaintiffs. The case was also converted to a class action on behalf of all disabled New Yorkers who were residing in or had attempted to enter shelters. After extensive settlement negotiations and a Fairness Hearing before Judge Sweet in the Southern District of New York, the Stipulation of Settlement was signed and became effective on December 7, 2017, and will remain under the Court’s jurisdiction for at least five years.

The Butler settlement mandates the City to retrofit existing facilities and include these accommodations at future shelters to ensure accessibility for homeless New Yorkers with disabilities, and to ensure that accessible shelters are not segregated in any one part of the city. In order to comply with the agreement, the City will likely have to replace many older, non-compliant shelters and offices with new facilities, providing a further rationale for Mayor de Blasio’s proposed citywide shelter plan. The Butler settlement was designed to accommodate the various stages of a complex, large-scale, systemic overhaul of New York City’s shelter system. The various stages of the plan build upon one another over a five-year period, and the settlement includes specific milestones and deadlines that dictate how and when the changes are made.

Generally, the settlement requires the City to:

  • Provide reasonable accommodations to ensure meaningful access to homeless shelters;
  • Survey existing shelters and offices to identify barriers to access;
  • Make accessible shelters available where people need them, so that people with disabilities are not segregated from the general population;
  • Ensure that emergency plans recognize the particular needs of people with disabilities;
  • Develop procedures to secure the shelter placements of residents who are hospitalized;
  • Retrain staff consistent with the City’s legal obligations;
  • Provide communication accommodations for individuals who are seeing- or hearing-impaired;
  • Modify existing procedures to ensure they do not discriminate against people with disabilities; and
  • Assess the expected demand for shelter by people with disabilities and develop a plan to provide sufficient shelter to meet that demand.

As Legal Aid continues to monitor the City’s compliance with the settlement over the coming years, Plaintiffs have the ability to assist advocates when their clients are unable to access shelters or obtain reasonable accommodations at all, or in a timely manner. Advocates should contact us at ButlerCase@legal-aid.org to receive the form for clients to obtain informal relief as the settlement period continues.

The full testimony can be read here.

Know Your Rights: Homeless New Yorkers Can Vote!

Since 2012, the fourth Tuesday of September has been designated as National Voter Registration Day to help encourage Americans around the country to get out and register to vote in the annual November general elections. Here is some helpful information on how to make your voice heard in this year’s election:

Can I vote if I don’t have a permanent address?

YES! In 1984, Coalition for the Homeless filed the lawsuit Pitts v. Black, which guaranteed the right to vote for homeless New Yorkers living in shelter, on the street, or in welfare hotels.

How can I register to vote?

The deadline to register to vote in New York State in the 2018 general election is October 12, 2018. You can find out if you are already registered or register as a first-time voter by visiting the New York State Board of Elections website or NYC Votes.

What do I need when I go to vote?

Nothing. Arrive at your poll site between 6 am and 9 pm on November 6th. As long as you registered to vote before the October 12th deadline, you do not need to show identification in order to vote. You can vote in the district where you now live, even if you registered to vote or previously voted in a different neighborhood. For more information about your poll site, contact the New York City Board of Elections at 1-866-VOTE-NYC.

What should I do when I enter the poll site?

At the poll site, you will see tables and voting machines set up for your election district and others. At the table for your district, you will be asked to sign next to a facsimile of your signature on an alphabetized, computerized polling list. If your name does not appear on the roster, ask for an affidavit or paper ballot.

Can I vote if I have committed a felony or am currently on parole?

  • If you have committed a felony and have finished your sentence: Your rights have been reinstated and you are eligible to register and vote in this year’s election.
  • If you are currently on parole: Some people on parole can vote, some cannot. If you are unsure, you can check your status online at voting.nyc. Even if you are currently not able to vote, you will regain your right to vote at the end of your parole period, and you may register and vote at that time.

What if I have trouble trying to vote?

If your name does not appear on the computerized polling list or you are told that you are not eligible to vote, ask for an affidavit or paper ballot. After Nov. 7th, the Board of Elections will check its records, and your vote will be counted if you are indeed eligible to vote. If not, you will receive a notice that you are not eligible, along with a registration application for future elections. You may also call one of the numbers listed below for assistance on the day of the election.

For more information or assistance, contact:

NYC Board of Elections: 1-866-VOTE-NYC (toll-free)

NYPIRG: 212-349-6460 x1166

Coalition for the Homeless: 212-776-2003

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