New York, New York – Elected officials, Housing Alliance Against Downsizing (HAAD) and hundreds of tenants from 28 former Mitchell-Lama buildings protested HPD’s downsizing of elderly, medically challenged and single-parent tenants who are being forced to downsize into 0-bedroom and 1-bedroom apartments, demanding a moratorium on the disastrously-implemented policy.
Since July 15, 2013, HPD has mandated that thousands of previously properly-housed section 8 voucher tenants be suddenly declared as over-housed and given thirty days to vacate their homes. A third of these residents are seniors and more than 40% are disabled.
“Imagine receiving a letter giving you 30 days to vacate your home and leave your memories behind you,” said Kallos. “Gilda Liebner, is an 86-year-old widow at living in my district at Knickerbocker Plaza, who was upgraded to a one-bedroom from a studio apartment after she had open heart surgery. She says she cannot imagine returning to a smaller space and dreads having to open up a sofa bed each night.
"This is just one story among many. Landlords of enhanced section 8 tenants received billions in Federal, State and City subsidies and tax abatements along with a guaranteed return on investment of 6% to 7.5% over the past three decades. HPD must force concessions from landlords not tenants."
A letter from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer signed by seventeen elected officials asking for a moratorium on downsizing was sent to new HPD commissioner, Vicki Been on February 21, has not yet received a reply.
Elected officials denounced the downsizing:
“This policy represents a dramatic change for tenants, and the abruptness with which it was announced have caused much understandable fear and confusion. What’s worse, it is not at all clear that HPD couldn’t get similar savings with different choices – and in fact, HPD has never quantified how much it expects to save from this change in policy. HPD’s choice seems especially punitive and places the entire burden on those who can least afford it. I would suggest that a forensic audit should be done to gain a better understanding of HPD’s finances and how savings could best be achieved,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12).
"Our seniors and vulnerable residents are the collateral damage in HPD's effort to remain fiscally solvent" said Council Member Helen Rosenthal (D-Manhattan)."In my district, downsizing could impact nearly 200 Section 8 recipients with enhanced vouchers. Our office will continue to assist tenants apply for medical exemptions. We call upon the Administration to find alternative solutions to address the funding shortfall from the Federal government."
Council Member Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) said, "I support Councilmember Kallos's call for a moratorium on Section 8 Housing downsizing. It is not fair for residents to be relocated into smaller housing units that may not be a good fit for their families. Moving residents who have spent years in a neighborhood is complex and has serious ramifications for all those involved. I commend Council Member Ben Kallos for leading the charge on this important issue."
"HPD's downsizing is causing exactly the kind of uprooting of tenants that we expect them to protect against," said Council Member Dan Garodnick.
“Requiring Section 8 recipients to relocate to homes that may not accommodate their family composition or specific needs is insensitive and unacceptable. While I am aware of the federal budget cuts that have occurred, I believe that HPD can offer a better solution than forcing these tenants to bear the brunt of this burden," said Council Member Robert Cornegy.
Also attending the rally were Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, chair of the Committee of Housing and Buildings and Council Member Margaret Chin, chair of the Committee on Aging.