Sequester cuts and homeless policy exacerbate growing affordability crisis. 
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Since the release of our Nowhere to Go report and forum on May 1st, the issues of affordability, homelessness and wages have been in the news. Our report has been circulating and getting a lot of reaction.  We now want to take this reaction and start talking about how to channel it into action.

The impacts of federal budget cuts and the Sequester on Section 8 rental subsidies are becoming clearer.  The loss of nearly 6,000 rental certificates in New York City is being felt by both the people on waiting lists not receiving the assistance and development projects being delayed to financially accommodate the loss of Section 8. 
Additionally, the proposed FY 2014 spending levels for Project-Based Rental Assistance and Tenant-Based Rental Assistance renewals would underfund each of these accounts by as much as $2 billion. In two recent blog posts, UNHP outlined the consequences that would be felt by neighborhood residents due to the loss of Section 8 and mapped out the NYC neighborhoods that will be hardest hit (click here to see the map). 

Pictured at right is the West Farms project developed and renovated by UNHP and Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation.  These 8 buildings have 526 apartments, 438 of which receive Section 8 rental subsidy.  A failure to address the Sequester related cuts in the program will make it very difficult to repeat the West Farms success in other properties.
UNHP has drawn attention to the escalation of the homeless crisis, referencing the use of public funds to place shelter residents in private apartment buildings and the elimination of the Advantage Program by the State and City. The Bronx Bureau of City Limits goes into depth about this issue - the poor use of funds and the impact on existing tenants, formerly homeless tenants, housing policy, and the neighborhood.  The June 16, 2013 New York Times editorial, “The Forgotten 50,000” points out that it costs the city $36,799 a year to shelter a family – much more than it would cost to provide a rental subsidy.
Our 2013 report points to the Crisis of Affordability in the Bronx brought about by a 23% decline in real wages and a 48% rise in rents over inflation. The need for increased wages in the lowest paying sectors, like retail, is real. Retail giant Costco offers a living wage model for its workers, and according to BloombergBusinessweek has seen a 30% increase in share price. “I just think people need to make a living wage with health benefits,” says Costco CEO Craig Jelinek. “It also puts more money back into the economy and creates a healthier country. It’s really that simple.”  
The legacy of redlining and disinvestment in our communities lives on.  Our borough has one of the lowest concentrations of bank branches per capita in the country. UNHP wrote about this issue and the prevalent use of predatory products in our 2012 Banking Report.  In this recent Crain’s article, "Money in the Bank? Not in the Bronx," UNHP Deputy Director Greg Jost comments on the need for a bank branch in the Bedford Park section of the newly rezoned Webster Avenue corridor. 
While these issues - low wages, rising homelessness, unaffordable rents, cuts to public subsidies and programs – can seem both overwhelming and depressing, it gives us hope that there is a convergence of opinions from various sources bringing these issues to light. UNHP and our partners in the Northwest Bronx will continue to bring forth these issues on our blog, "Views from the Northwest Bronx." We encourage your readership, comments, and continued work to make New York City a place where everyone can live and thrive.
James Buckley
& UNHP staff

Copyright © 2013 University Neighborhood Housing Program, All rights reserved.

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