Today’s Read: Report Shows Poverty in New York Far Worse Than Official Measures Say

Many New Yorkers are struggling to make ends meet: A new report from the Robin Hood Foundation found that half of adult New Yorkers report living in poverty for at least a year between 2015 and 2018, despite a falling official poverty rate, and people of color are disproportionately affected by economic instability. During that same period, more than half of adult New Yorkers experienced material hardship, such as not being able to afford food, rent, heating, or medical care.

Jason Cone, chief public policy officer at Robin Hood, spoke with Gotham Gazette’s Samar Khurshid about the report’s findings:

“Most New Yorkers ride the subway on a given day and the person sitting across from you, if not yourself or a family member, has experienced poverty in the last four years,” Cone added, “and in the largest city in the United States that is a striking and startling statistic.”

The Robin Hood report is only the latest reminder that far too many New Yorkers are economically insecure – including those who are either homeless or on the brink of homelessness – and that leaders at all levels of government must immediately enact solutions to place people on more secure footing. One such urgently needed solution is Home Stability Support (HSS), a statewide rent subsidy to bridge the difference between the woefully inadequate public assistance shelter allowance and actual rents for New Yorkers who are homeless or at risk of homelessness due to eviction, domestic violence, or hazardous conditions. An estimated 80,000 households across the state would benefit from receiving HSS subsidies once fully implemented.

HSS (S.2375/A.1620) has wide bipartisan support from a majority of both houses of the State legislature, municipal leaders across the state, faith leaders, and a broad coalition of advocates, but has faced stubborn opposition from Governor Cuomo since it was first introduced in 2016. With State budget negotiations well underway, a growing chorus of New Yorkers is calling on Governor Cuomo to finally say yes to HSS this year. Visit SayYesToHSS.org to learn more and take action.

David Brand wrote about the HSS proposal – and the growing momentum behind it – for City Limits:

The supplement, its supporters say, would help tens of thousands of families stave off homelessness by filling in the huge gap between the local shelter allowance and actual market rents. The $1,951 FMR [fair market rent] for a two-bedroom apartment in New York City is nearly five times the maximum shelter allowance amount in New York City, which means that families that receive the shelter allowance simply cannot afford to rent an apartment.

Home Stability Support, or HSS, would use state money to fund up to 85 percent of the FMR, while allowing municipalities to cover the remaining amount. Over time, it would replace other subsidies — including New York City’s CityFHEPs vouchers — that often fail to meet the actual cost of housing.

The initiative has the support of tenants’ rights advocates and the landlord lobby, but there’s a major snag: Gov. Andrew Cuomo has resisted HSS and did not include the proposal in his fiscal year 2021 executive budget, released last month. A $15 million pilot program included in the state’s final 2018 budget has yet to get off the ground.

“[HSS] better get done this year. It’s crazy it hasn’t gotten done yet,” says housing organizer Cea Weaver, the campaign director for the Upstate/Downstate Alliance of tenants groups. “We’re in a moment where the level of homelessness is causing generational trauma. Twenty years from now we’re still going to have 150,000 students who are unable to reach their full potential.”

Enacting the subsidy is the very first recommendation for New York State in the Coalition for the Homeless’ most recent State of the Homeless report.

“Thousands of New Yorkers would have been saved from the trauma and indignity of homelessness had HSS been implemented when Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi first introduced it in 2016,” the Coalition wrote in its 2019 report.

Cuomo Touts Affordable Housing Gains as Homelessness Crisis Takes Center Stage in Budget Battle

ALBANY — Amid an ongoing battle over the state’s handling of the homelessness crisis, Gov. Cuomo is touting his administration’s efforts to boost affordable housing.

As advocates and lawmakers call on Cuomo to raise taxes on the wealthy and subsidize programs that could assist the homeless and those at risk of eviction, the administration said Wednesday that construction is complete or underway on 56,000 affordable homes and funding approved for thousands of supportive housing units.

The updated numbers are part of Cuomo’s five-year, $20 billion plan to combat homelessness and create or preserve more than 100,000 affordable homes and 6,000 providing supportive services.