January 15, 2014 The Honorable Andrew Cuomo Governor of the State of New York New York State Capitol Albany, New York 12247 Dear Governor Cuomo: We applaud your leadership promoting LGBT equality, tackling health disparities, and investing in affordable housing. We write to you with a concern that touches on all of these priority areas for your administration. Your leadership is needed now to change an anachronistic subsidy exclusion that discriminates against people living with HIV/AIDS. As members and allies of the LGBT community, we are grateful for your tireless effort and tremendous success in passing same-sex marriage in New York. We are confident that you will also want to stand with us in putting a stop to the discrimination against people living with HIV/ AIDS in affordable housing – discrimination that disproportionately impacts low-income, LGBT people of color. We ask you to implement the 30% rent cap for people living with HIV/AIDS, a cost-neutral affordable housing protection, through Article VII language in the 2014 - 2015 Executive Budget.
Background - People with AIDS Excluded from Affordable Housing Protection
The primary housing program for poor New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS is tenant- based rental assistance. As with other state housing programs for disabled people, residents with income from disability benefits are expected to contribute a portion of those benefits toward their rent. All state disability housing programs – and all federally funded housing assistance – cap the tenant’s rent contribution at 30% of income. Except one. The HIV/AIDS rental assistance program put in place in the 1980s excluded an affordable housing protection. What this means today is that disabled New Yorkers with an AIDS diagnosis who receive rental assistance are required to pay upwards of 70% or more of their federal disability income (SSI, SSDI or Veterans’ benefits) towards their rent. This forces people to choose between paying their rent and other essential needs like food, transportation and co-pays for life-saving medical care. For those evicted, the risks are even greater. Without stable housing, it is difficult for people living with HIV/AIDS to remain connected to medical care, adhere to treatment and practice HIV prevention. The consequences include high rates of housing loss, homelessness, and premature death among a vulnerable population.
The Cost Savings
This policy will pay for itself by preventing unnecessary costs associated with housing loss and homelessness. An analysis by Shubert Botein Policy Associates (SBPA) estimates that annual reductions in crisis and emergency housing costs for the 10,000