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Committee on Housing and Buildings New York City Council Fiscal Year 2018  Executive Budget Hearing, May 25, 2017

June 1, 2017

http://legistar.council.nyc.go v/Video.aspx?Mode=Auto&URL=aHR 0cDovL2NvdW5jaWxueWMudmllYml0L mNvbS9mbGFzaC9tZWRpYV9wbGF5ZXJ fNzk4Yy5zd2Y%2Fc2VydmVyPW55Yy1 ydG1wLnBlZ2NlbnRyYWwuY29tJmFjY 291bnQ9Y291bmNpbG55YyZ2aWRlb0Z pbGVuYW1lPU5ZQ0MtUFYtQ0gtQ0hBX zE3MDUyNS0xMjA1MTIubXA0&Mode2= Video#.WShesm_FaXE.gmail

Picture the Homeless’s testimony begins approximately three hours and seven minutes into the video, and I am the second speaker.

[Portions in italics were omitted from the oral presentation when the 75 speakers caused them to reduce our time from three minutes to two, but the written version was delivered to the Council in both hard and electronic copy.]

My name is Scott Andrew Hutchins, and I am an activist with Picture the Homeless, a five year resident of the shelter system, and have a master’s degree from CUNY College of Staten Island with $66,000 in student loan debt. I was recently laid off from my job and made $17,000 last year.

I am imploring the City Council to fund more housing for people making under $20,000 using funds currently budgeted for shelters.

Thousands of New Yorkers are working and cannot afford housing, and landlords often use pricing strategies to avoid taking vouchers. Mara Gay noted in an April 10, 2017 Wall Street Journal article that thousands of working New Yorkers are living in shelters because they lack the income needed to pay the rents in this city. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 260,000 college graduates are working for the federal minimum wage (not accounting for higher local minimum wages). A 2016 study by Zero Hedge showed that 52% of new jobs created are minimum wage jobs, and 23% of those working them have at least a bachelor’s degree.  Poverty is less a result of skill level than of available jobs.  Most of the working poor in shelters are not people who qualify for supportive or senior housing, nor are job developers in the shelters equipped to help people into jobs that pay a living wage.  I myself have medical issues that restrict me to a desk job but do not qualify me for Disability, and few desk jobs are easy to get, many of which will use overqualification as an excuse to narrow the talent pool, leaving me to compete with more experienced workers or jobs requiring prolonged standing, which I cannot do.

According to documentation from HRA, they pay my shelter $2,325.66 per month to house me, more than double the $1,018.75 rent of the apartment I lost in 2012.  HRA also pays nearly $274 a month to store the property I once had in that one-bedroom apartment.  My current shelter has me in a large dorm room with 22 strangers, some threatening, with only a painful cot and a small locker to myself.  The food portions are very small, the cleaning is inadequate, and the staff is not useful to me.  This $2,599.66 per month would be better spent on a one-bedroom apartment, but the LINC voucher limits the cost of the apartment to $1,213,  of which I have to pay $500.50, which is unreasonable on unemployment, which will soon be replaced once again by public assistance. If I were to take only a room, I would have to jettison the bulk of my stored property, a fine reward for my hard work.

According to Gay’s article, the city has only 2,662 apartments for the 865,000 households that make under $25,000 in New York City.  The mayor’s pseudo-affordable housing plan does not address any of these households where the need is most dire.  If conservative Utah can provide housing for such people, why can’t progressive New York?

The mayor’s current Housing First policy uses an unprecedented amount of public funds, but essentially amounts to corporate welfare for developers to house middle- and upper-class households while failing to reach anyone who makes under $30,000.  HPD needs to think about altering their programs and/or increasing subsidies so as to not push the bottom third of New York’s population into shelters.

For these reasons, the City Council should oppose the building of new shelters and instead use that funding to create permanent housing for people who make under $20,000 a year.

 

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2 Comments
  1. I wanted to embed the video, but I’m not sure that the City Council website allows me to do so.

  2. Correction: Originally posted with the original hearing date of May 18. The hearing actually occurred on May 25 as currently stated. The old date was on my draught of the testimony before Jenny revised the heading.

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