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Sequester hits home(less)

June 11, 2013

We've heard a lot about the "sequester" kicking in lately but, for the most part, we haven't felt its effects yet. That's about to change. For thousands of people, the sequester is the difference between having a roof over their head and being homeless. The most effective homelessness prevention program - Section 8 rental housing vouchers - are facing the chopping block to the tune of 36 million dollars here in New York City alone.


We've seen what happens when rental subsidies are cut in this city - homelessness skyrockets.  The city recently ended its municipal voucher program, Advantage, and the shelter population has increased by over 10,000 people since it was cut.


This not only has a human cost, it has a financial cost as well - it actually takes substantially more money for the city to house these newly homeless in emergency shelters than it does to provide rental subsidies.  As of 2013, the City now spends over $819 million per year on shelters.


And the damage doesn't stop there. Because of the scarcity of available shelters, the City has to use privately-owned rental buildings - buildings whose landlords know that because of the scarcity of shelters and skyrocketing homeless population, they can get more money from the city using their buildings as shelters rather than from the existing tenants. Many landlords are opting to convert rent-stabilized rental housing stock in the outer boroughs - which is the main housing for New York's working-class families -  into temporary sheltersso they can charge a much higher rent than before. Families are harassed out, resulting in more displacement and homelessness, and the rent-stabilized housing is effectively eliminated. 


The Federal government needs to restore - fully - the Section 8 funding level from before the sequester. We can argue about whether the Sequester is needed, or if it cuts the right programs. But what is clear is that it's supposed to save taxpayers money. By slashing the Section 8 funding, this misguided initiative ends up creating homelessness, costing money, and destabilizing housing for working families all at once. 


Blogger - Moses Gates

ANHD blog team:  Benjamin Dulchin, Moses Gates, Ericka Stallings, Jaime Weisberg, Barika Williams. Anne Troy, editor.

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