(Christopher Robbins) Cecilia Carey is stronger than John Boehner. The self-described 76-year-old "super senior" was told a few months ago she'd have to move out of the one bedroom apartment in Kips Bay into a studio or see her rent double. The reason: the city's Department of Preservation and Housing has a $35 million shortfall because Republicans in Congress continue to starve the federal government with spending cuts and sequestration. HPD no longer had the money to fund the Section 8 voucher for Carey's one-bedroom. She has lived there 20 years, but now Carey was deemed "overhoused."
"When my grown sons visit, where are they supposed to stay?" Carey wonders, imagining a jumble of limbs in what HPD refers to as a "0 bedroom" unit. She scoffs at the idea of opening up a murphy bed or a pull-out couch every night. "I'm too old for all that," she says, adding that she contacted HPD to ask to stay where she is. She has not gotten an answer. "I don't want to move. I'm not going to move out if I can help it."
New York City's Section 8 tenants live in privately owned buildings and pay one-third of their income as rent, while the rest is paid for through vouchers provided by the federal government. The income limit for a single person receiving Section 8 assistance is under $30K but the average income is around $15K. Tenants pay an average share of $436 a month, and more than 40% of voucher holders are disabled. As federal funding for the affordable housing program continues to shrink, New York City has closed the waiting list for Section 8 applications. There are still 123,000 applicants waiting for a chance at a voucher.
Faced with impending reality of $35 million in cuts and a recalcitrant Congress, HPD issued letters notifying residents that they were "overhoused" this summer.
"The federal sequester imposes relentless and draconian budget cuts that hurt our most vulnerable citizens by placing immense fiscal constraints on municipal agencies such as HPD," former HPD Commissioner Mathew Wambua wrote to New York's Democratic Congressional delegation in a letter last month. "As a municipal agency we must deal with the budget we are given, and have done all we can to keep our most vulnerable citizens housed in the face of these crippling congressional budget cuts."
Without the downsizing, HPD estimates that 2,900 families might have their vouchers rescinded. And as many as 3,300 families could be impacted if the sequester budget cuts remain unchanged through 2014.
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Mark Wilson