Governor Cuomo And Mayor De Blasio Announce Affordable Housing Protection For Low-Income New Yorkers Living With HIV/AIDS

Story By: James Edstrom

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

We applaud Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio's decision to help New Yorkers with HIV/AIDS. It will save money and will save lives.

I remember a few years back I had a friend that lived in supportive housing where his rent was capped at 30 percent. He wanted to move on and won a lottery for a affordable housing apartment in Manhattan. The building was beautiful, affordable housing was mixed in with the rich apartment renters. The only problem was my friend had limited disability checks coming in every month, his rent went from around two hundred a month to about five hundred a month, leaving him with nothing to buy food with. He lasted only two months and finally he had to decide, pay the rent and don't eat or become homeless and have food. He chose being homeless. And he ended up in the hospital endless times due to being homeless, which in the long run cost the city and state more money than if he had a apartment in the first place.

Lucky after a few months, he was able to get another supportive apartment with low rent, but he did not need supportive housing, and by him taking another apartment meant that someone with HIV/AIDS that did need the services, did not have a place to go. This is the major problem with supportive housing. Even if the person with HIV/AIDS does not need caretakers and supportive housing, they are forced to stay there, because that is all they can afford. So they stay there for years, taking up a apartment that could be used for someone that really needs the services. Supportive housing also is for people with mental Disabilities, War Veterans and other health problems as well as other issues. So this bill will allow people that do not need these services to move on. It will open up housing for people that really need it.

Perhaps one more thing can be accomplished next. Currently the state and city will pay twenty dollars per month towards the electric bills of people with HIV/AIDS. This is just not enough. I can not tell you how many people I know with HIV/AIDS who are always on a final disconnect for their electric bill. Their bills range from a hundred a month in winter to over two hundred in the summer when electricity demand is high and so are the prices. Either the city or state or both should raise the help they can give with these bills. Better yet, Con Edison of New York City should give a deep discount towards people with HIV/AIDS as well as people with other disabilities. Considering how much CON ED makes a month in profit, maybe a bill is needed in Albany, that would require this utility to give people on limited income electricity and gas at cost. It is only right considering how much money Con Ed rakes in every month.

On another note, Dr. Frank R. Lipton from The Human Resources Administration (HRA), who has been called the quintessential unsung hero in media outlets, should be named the new Commissioner of The HRA. Under Dr. Lipton's direction, almost 15,000 supportive housing apartments have been created. Considered widely successful, Dr. Lipton has put New York City on the right track to end homelessness.

But Their Are Problems With HIV/AIDS Programs

There are some problems though. Currently a provider of Scatter Site and Supportive housing can do what they want. If a tenant has a complaint about services received by a provider, there is no outlet for the tenant to complain and take action against the provider. It is the provider that has the power to take the tenant on, but the tenant has no recourse to say to the HRA, "Hey, I am not receiving services". Currently apartment providers for the HRA can call level one, two and three meetings against the tenant and the next step is eviction. But if the provider is not living up to the contract for which they are being paid, no action can be taken against the landlord provider. This has to change, as providers are taking advantage of this loophole and people with disabilities, HIV/AIDS, Mental or other, have no recourse. They can be abused by the provider, which happens more often than anyone can imagine. I have heard more horror stories on this issue and recently I wrote Dr. Lipton asking him to put safeguards in place, so the City's HRA HASA program for people with HIV/AIDS, can take action against a provider who is being paid for services and not rendering them.

Another example of the abuses of providers. People with HIV/AIDS are told they will have Case Management. Yet none of the providers can tell you what that is. They demand that the person living with HIV/AIDS meet with them every week or every other week, yet provide no services. The caseworker will sit there and ask the client, what have you done, yet they never have any answers to what they have done to make the person living with HIV/AIDS live a easier life.

One recent example is St. Nicks Alliance of Brooklyn. I spoke to a caseworker who was recently fired because she wanted to help people with HIV/AIDS. She was told she did not manage her time well. But the reason she was not managing her time well, was she really was trying to help her clients. Helping takes time.

When I put the question to St Nicks Alliance about their Scatter Site program, they denied they had anything to do with their founding fathers, St. Nicks Alliance The Landlord. They said they were a separate entity, and the Landlord had nothing to do with the Scatter Site program. I could have believed this, since I live in one of St. Nicks buildings in Williamsburg. But when this case worker lost her job, she was called down to Frank Lang's office.When doing a search on Frank Lang, this is what several websites say.

Frank Lang is the Director of Housing for the St. Nicks Alliance since 2006 overseeing all of St. Nicks’ housing programs including real estate development, tenant assistance and property management. St. Nicks, founded in 1975, is one of the premiere community development companies in NYC.

St. Nicks Alliance Scatter Site programs separate from  St. Nicks Alliance the landlord? I THINK NOT!

When I e-mailed the fired caseworker on what St. Nicks Alliance Scatter Site Case Management meant, this was her reply.

"Case management is an intangible construct. I don't know how they measure their results of case management. They are unbelievably infatuated with getting program fees. But you are right, they are not exactly managing anything."

Now for anyone who wonders what program fees are, they are the rent paid by the tenant and the monies paid to the program by the City, State and the HRA.

Now in a e-mail to Michelle Sainsbury Deputy Director of Supportive Housing, AKA Scatter Site, I have requested her definition of Case Management. I look forward to her reply, if there is one. 

Now to keep things out in the open, St Nicks Alliance is also my landlord. Since day one here, we have been abused by several of their tenants. Since day one, we have been plagued with Mice and Rats and many maintenance issues. We were robbed the first hour we were here and their tenants harass us day and night. They call us faggots, white trash and everything else in the book. The police refuse to help almost every time and the St Nicks Alliance is protecting these tenants. Recently St. Nicks Alliance showed up to finally fix some of the problems, after 15 months of complaints, but the vermin problem persists. Building manager Hayde Cordero also showed up to speak to me. But she refuses to enforce the building rules. This one tenant who is always outside our window, smoking pot, drinking and yelling and screaming is allowed to continue in this manner. When I asked Ms. Cordero to take action, she said she had no proof. I told her she did. I told her she had numerous police and security reports, and most recently this tenant was arrested in our stairwell smoking pot and drinking with his friends. I also informed her that ST. Nicks Alliance's recent installation of cameras everywhere would show that this tenant was in front of my windows for hours at a time on several nights, smoking pot and drinking with his friends. I told Cordero that the police have been to this persons apartment a dozen times, St. Nicks personal have been to this guys apartment several times and he is not going to stop. He does not care and refuses to follow any rules of this building. The harassment is pure racism, plain and simple. If I was acting in this manner, if I was calling other tenants the N WORD and I was breaking all these rules, I would be evicted. No doubt about it.

Considering we are very quiet, and we don't break any rules, I can only assume not only are these tenants anti-gay, they are racist. And since St. Nicks Alliance refused to enforce the rules against these tenants, I can only assume they are also racist. We will be writing about this more very soon, but you can read our first story HERE. You can also be sure, St. Nicks Alliance will try to get revenge against my son and I, but I am very prepared for that.

The following statement was sent to us by The Governor's Office.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have announced a new affordable housing protection for low-income New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS. With today’s announcement, New Yorkers who are permanently disabled by HIV/AIDS and receive rental assistance will pay no more than 30 percent of their income toward their rent. Without this protection, more than 10,000 New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS are denied affordable housing and required to pay upwards of 70 percent of their disability income toward their rent.

“This action will ensure that thousands of New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS will no longer be forced to choose between paying their rent or paying for food and other essential costs of living,” Governor Cuomo said. “By implementing a 30 percent income cap for low-income renters with HIV/AIDS, we are protecting New Yorkers in need and making our communities stronger, healthier, and more compassionate for all.”

Mayor de Blasio said, "I'm very proud to work with Governor Cuomo to provide some measure of security to people struggling with the debilitating effects of HIV-AIDS. And we come to the table ready to shoulder two-thirds of this program's costs because we are committed to lifting up the most vulnerable among us. This is the mark of a compassionate city."

Senator Brad Hoylman said, “Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio deserve our highest praise for their decision to extend the affordable housing rent contribution cap to low-income people in the State’s HIV/AIDS rental assistance program. Their decision will prevent homelessness and dramatically improve the health and well-being of more than 10,000 vulnerable New Yorkers with HIV/AIDS. The Governor and the Mayor's decision is also extremely smart budget and public health policy because it will reduce emergency shelter and healthcare costs and the rates of HIV transmission associated with unstable housing.”

Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell said, “I congratulate Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio on coming to this common-sense agreement to fix a longstanding problem plaguing one of our most vulnerable populations. The HIV/AIDs community deserves our help and protection, and I am overjoyed to hear that they will receive this crucial rental assistance.”

Assemblyman Robert J. Rodriguez said, “Much praise is due to Governor Cuomo for supporting our legislation and prioritizing affordable housing protections for more than 10,000 low-income New Yorkers living with AIDS. The 30% Rent Cap is a smart policy that will keep people stably housed and better positioned to stay healthy. Affordable AIDS housing is not only a priority for my district, but a priority of the entire Black, Hispanic, Puerto Rican and Asian Legislative Caucus. We applaud the Governor for taking this long important step to tackle the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which disproportionately impacts communities of color.”

Currently, the primary housing program for low-income New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS is tenant-based rental assistance. As with other state housing programs for people with disabilities, residents with income from disability benefits are expected to contribute a portion of those benefits toward their rent. Unlike all other state disability housing programs and federally funded housing assistance, however, New York’s HIV/AIDS rental assistance program did not include a 30 percent cap on the tenant’s required rent contribution.

Right now, many people living with HIV/AIDS in emergency shelters and supportive housing could live independently but cannot afford to move out because they would pay substantially more in rent in the rental assistance program. By creating this affordable housing protection, the State can better target the limited number of supportive housing beds for those who need them most.

Studies show homelessness and housing instability are significant public health issues that increase the risks of HIV acquisition and transmission and adversely affect the health of people living with HIV. The conditions that lead to homelessness for some individuals, coupled with the numerous challenges of being homeless, result in a substantially higher risk of HIV acquisition. People who are homeless or unstably housed have HIV/AIDS infection rates that are three to nine times higher than individuals with stable housing.

Dan Teitz, executive director of the AIDS Community Research Initiative of America said, “This affordable housing initiative pays for itself by keeping people in their apartments and out of costly shelters. It improves HIV health outcomes and is associated with better access and adherence to medication.”

Sean Barry, executive director of Vocal New York said, “This action furthers Governor Cuomo’s and Mayor de Blasio’s mission of reducing spending and creating a healthier, stronger, more fiscally responsible New York by preventing unnecessary healthcare expenses, including emergency room visits and hospital stays, which are associated with homelessness and unstable housing.”

Ted Houghton, executive director at Supportive Housing Network of New York said, “Today’s action will improve lives and save money. What could be better?”


Anonymous said…
thank you for writing this. i am in a aids program at common ground, they also give no services and i can not do anything about it. the caseworkers really work for the landlord and will help with nothing. common ground is very abusive and i am told i can move if i am unhappy. please look into this place.