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Written Testimony for the New York City Council Meeting on Intro 146 Rules Implementation, August 30, 2021

September 14, 2021

The following was submitted via e-mail for public record on August 20, 2021 because it was recommended that written testimonies be submitted as soon as possible because of a desire expressed by city officials to start implementing the rules soon after the August 30 hearing (which inherently suggests that the Council is just going to barge ahead without addressing public comments). For more context see https://rules.cityofnewyork.us/rule/rental-assistance-programs/ .

My name is Scott Andrew Hutchins, and after eight years and three months of living in the city homeless shelter system, I am in an apartment with a CityFHEPS voucher, but the rent is $1,999 a month despite it being a homeless set-aside, so it is augmented by a voucher from HPD along with another voucher to pay for the electricity, which includes three heat pumps/air conditioners. While I am pleased at the increase in the voucher amounts, the income cliff rules that have been added in are unconscionable and need to be removed.

One rule in particular that must be stricken is § 7-20 (E): “The household must have total gross income that does not exceed 200 percent of the federal poverty level as established annually by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.”

This rule is the City Council’s collective middle finger in the face of homeless New Yorkers. Do members of the Council not know how little that is? For a single person, it’s $25,760 a year, while the city minimum wage at full time is 31,200 a year. There are plenty of employed people in the shelter system, and many are making not only at but above minimum wage, if not by much. One need only see Mara Gay’s “Thousands of Working New Yorkers Are Living in Homeless Shelters.” The Wall Street Journal, April 10, 2017, Mireya Navarro’s “In New York, Having a Job, or 2, Doesn’t Mean Having a Home.” The New York Times, September 13, 2013, and Daniel E. Slotnik’s “She Works in a Homeless Shelter, and She Lives in One, Too.” The New York Times, April 16, 2021, among others about working poor living in homeless shelters, to know that housing is out of reach to a large portion of working citizens. You are effectively preventing voucher tenants from working.

In order for my apartment to be considered “affordable” under federal guidelines, I would have to make $72,000 a year. The federal government defines paying more than 30% of your income on rent as “rent burdened,” and more than 50% of your income on rent is “severely rent burdened.” If I were to get a job that pays me $25,761 a year, I would lose my voucher, which means that the City Council considers paying 93% of one’s income on rent is perfectly reasonable.

But wait, you say, § 10-08 (1) raises it to 250%, which I say is still a joke. That’s $32,200 a year, or half a month’s rent more than the local minimum wage. That’s 74.5% of my income going to rent. That means it’s still far above the federal definition for severe rent burden. In effect, if I get a job, you are punishing me. And when Back to Work programs resume post-COVID, I may be forced to apply for work that would effectively put me back in the shelter system. I’m willing to accept some rent burden—if I were making, say, $60,000 a year, I’d be better off than I am now—but putting me in a situation of severe rent burden is effectively punishing me for working.

But, as it is, § 10-08 limiting the program to four renewals is an inherent problem because the limit already placed on our income strikes us down early if we attempt to work our way up, and drops us off a cliff at the end of it, anyway. In spite of a master’s degree, I’ve never interviewed for a job where the pay, if it was stated at all, was more than $43,000. This means I have to accept either returning to the shelter system ;or severe rent burden to work my way up to the apartment becoming affordable. This is not at all reasonable.

Of course, if after these four renewals are exhausted and I don’t have a job because I don’t want to be punished for working, I will be sent back to the shelter, anyway, and the city, if it stays true to form, will presumably pretend that it’s my fault for not trying despite the circumstances. After all, I applied for 3,895 jobs while I was homeless and from those was contacted for only 33 interviews (including temp services and known scams), which shelter staff decided meant that I was mentally ill. Because Social Security said that my physical challenges didn’t prevent me from doing desk work, and they didn’t understand how difficult such work is to obtain (CareerBuilder will sometimes offer you stats on a specific job posting, and has shown me 1,600+ people applying for a single data entry opening), they fell back on the homeless stereotype of mental illness that only a doctor on DHS payroll would back up after I was given independent evaluations from SCO Family Services, Project Renewal, Montefiore, Mount Sinai, CAMBA, and Housing Works that failed to show that I had anything other than stress or depression as a direct result of my situation rather than any chronic problem that would qualify me for Disability. It’s clear to any reasonable person, however, that this income cliff is designed to prevent us from working. It’s as though you want to follow the Republican narrative that Democrats want to keep people dependent on government. Rules like these make dependence on government inevitable, but also attach unreasonable limits seemingly put there to make the three Republicans on the Council happy.

As one of the authors of The Business of Homelessness report that Picture the Homeless released in 2018, I learned that many shelter CEOs make nearly half a million dollars a year while there employees make under $40,000 a year. They say they need more money, but they need to be stopped from enriching themselves with public funds. Rules like these attached to CityFHEPS seemed designed to keep the system going as it is and not put too much of a dent in the cash cow of these shelter providers by severely limiting how many people cam leave the shelter system and how many people end up back in the system just like with the Advantage program.

6 Comments
  1. Meth mouth scott permalink

    Did you mention all your finances? Sure didnt i am sure they would love to here about that 200+k and how you are stealing a home from someone without two nickles to rub together

    Get a job fat ass, excused are like assholes and yours is the rankest of all

    • My finances were properly reported to HRA, jackass! I also wrote an op-ed about this that does mention them along with the extraordinary difficulty I’ve had obtaining a job. You demonstrate your functional illiteracy in your inability to understand he concept of severe rent burden that was explicitly detailed in the testimony. You also seem to think your Goebbels-like repetition of “meth mouth” will magically make it true.

  2. Meth Mouth Scotty Boo Boo permalink

    Severely rent burdened my ass fatty, you could get a job and supplement with your dividend but you would rather sit on your ass and read comic books than be a functional adult. 🙂

    You are just a 45 year old complete and utter failure no wonder your brother doesnt want anything to do with you.

    • I can’t get a job if I can’t get interviewed for a job, imbecile.

    • The fact that you think I would choose to live in a homeless shelter that I complain about constantly rather than get a job is proof of idiocy on your part. If I could simply get a job, I never would have experienced the NYC shelter system, but you’re too stupid to understand basic things like that. Further still, the fact that I have a master’s degree makes the idea that I’m unwilling to work a blatant lie on the face of it. The more you post, the stupider you sound to any rational person.

    • Even with the latest job numbers, there are still only 0.09803921568 jobs per jobseeker. That’s a little better than when I posted in March, but it’s still nowhere near enough.

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