A coalition that includes several Brooklyn officials held a demonstration at City Hall on Thursday against a policy its members say will cause hardships to large numbers of elderly, medically challenged and single-parent tenants of the city’s Section 8 program.
The Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) is targeting tenants who are “over-vouchered” – for example, one person living in a two- or three-bedroom apartment. A typical case might be a woman who moved in as part of a four-person family 30 years ago, before her husband died and her children moved out. Now, according to the organizers, HPD is giving these tenants 30 days to move to smaller apartments.
For its part, the city agency said on its website that federal budget cuts and the federal sequester have created a $35 million shortfall in HPD’s Section 8 program, which is funded by the federal government. Smaller apartments translate into smaller rents, which would free up much-needed funds for HPD’s expenses and avoid the worst-case necessity of terminating Section 8 tenants’ vouchers.
In the Section 8 program, low-income tenants get vouchers for a certain amount of rent. Unlike project tenants, they live in private housing, but HPD (or, in some cases, the New York City Housing Authority) pays the balance of their rent.
Sarah Anders, a spokeswoman for Councilmember Ben Kallos (D-Upper East Side), one of the organizers of the protest, says that Brooklyn supporters of the “Rally Against Section 8 Downsizing” included Councilmembers Robert Kornegy (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant/Crown Heights) and Jumaane Williams (D-Flatbush/East Flatbush). Several other Brooklyn officials have informally endorsed the movement, she added.
This writer, a former management assistant for the Section 8 program in Brooklyn, recalls that the tenant mix for Section 8 was somewhat different than that of the projects – fewer welfare recipients and more immigrants. Among the neighborhoods with heavy numbers of Section 8 tenants are Flatbush, Crown Heights, East New York, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Borough Park, Brighton Beach and Williamsburg.