58 per cent. of New Yorkers are one paycheck away from becoming homeless : Study

By LOUIS FLORES

Almost 6 out of 10 New Yorkers are one paycheck away from becoming homeless, according to a risk chart published by a key nonprofit housing advocacy group. A study that produced the data reported in the 2016 Equitable Economic Development Indicators risk chart, published by the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, or ANHD, found that 58 per cent. of New Yorkers lacked sufficient savings "to pay for expenses like food, housing, and rent in an emergency." In Queens, the neighborhood most at such economic risk was South Ozone Park. "Without sufficient emergency savings that cover at least three months’ worth of household expenses, families are at risk of eviction, foreclosure, and damaged credit," ANHD heeded in notes on its Web site.

Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) has made preserving and expanding affordable housing a key aim of his administration. The success of his affordable housing goals depend on the revival of the expired 421-a tax abatement program that costs the City of New York over $1 billion each year in lost revenues. The program subsidised the profits of wealthy real estate developers and was responsible for the spread of gentrification and secondary displacement in formerly affordable neighborhoods in the City, critics have said. The 421-a tax abatement program required real estate developers to set aside 20 per cent. of apartments in qualified buildings to be affordable, according to formulas that some tenant advocates protested, because the formulas did not provide housing to New Yorkers most in need of affordable housing. Critics also noted that the 421-a tax abatement program encouraged secondary displacement of tenants, because 80 per cent. of new apartments created were rented at free market rates, spurring upward rental pricing pressures on surrounding apartment buildings. The 421-a tax abatement program attracted additional criticism over its reported connection to political and campaign corruption. Glenwood Management Corporation, the real estate development company owned by Leonard Litwin, heavily benefited from the 421-a tax abatement program, and the company was involved in the corruption cases against the State's former legislative leaders, according to a report published by The Journal News.

"Future Ability"

Some tenants rights activists have protested against the gentrification and secondary displacement caused by the pro-development policies that are backed by Mayor de Blasio. Others have blamed the symptoms of those pro-development policies as causes of the rise in homelessness. Coalition for the Homeless, a nonprofit advocacy group, has noted on its Web site that, "Research shows that the primary cause of homelessness, particularly among families, is lack of affordable housing. Surveys of homeless families have identified the following major immediate, triggering causes of homelessness : eviction; doubled-up or severely overcrowded housing ; domestic violence ; job loss ; and hazardous housing conditions." The chair of the Board of Directors of Coalition for the Homeless is Barry Berke, the private sector lawyer representing Mayor de Blasio in various reported corruption investigations.

The City of New York provides some limited relief to tenants facing eviction over unaffordable rents. Tenants, who are most in hardship, such as the unemployed and those without a financial guarantor, do not quality for financial assistance. Applications for the One Shot Deal, a rental assistance program sponsored by the New York City Human Resources Administration, are primarily judged on an applicant's ability to pay the current month's rent and on an applicant's "future ability" to pay rent after the current month. Because this litmus test has been adopted by key nonprofit housing groups that provide legal and social services to individuals facing eviction in Housing Court, New Yorkers most in need can also be denied nonprofit legal and social services. Over 60,000 New Yorkers are now homeless, a historical high, according to a report published by The New York Daily News, which noted growing impatience with Mayor de Blasio's policies.

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