Tuesday, May 7, 2013

NY Observer: "The Return of Hooverville"

The New York Observer has published an important feature about the explosion of homelessness in New York City. More and more families are entering the shelter system every day. Many of them have been priced out of their apartments, and cannot find new affordable accommodations. This is one piece of the growing affordability crises in New York, which tenants described to the Board in testimony on April 25th (see samples here and here).

The RGB alone cannot solve homelessness, but they have the power stop to the rent increases that have put so many families on the street. The "Supplemental Rent Increases" the board has considered in recent years have disproportionately hurt very low income tenants; stopping this practice would be an important step in the right direction.

An excerpt from "The Return of Hooverville: The Deepening Crises of Family Homelessness":
Brooklyn is now the second most expensive place to live in America (after Manhattan), with townhouses that sell for $12 million and jars of pickles that sell for $9, but nearly half of its population can’t afford to live there. According to a recent study from the Center for an Urban Future, almost 40 percent of the borough’s population works in low-wage jobs, making less than $27,000 a year. At that salary, affordable rent (affordable is defined as costing no more than 30 percent of income) tops out at $675 a month. Minimum-wage workers can’t afford to pay more than $375 a month—a virtual impossibility.
A lot of people make do, of course. They triple up with relatives, live four to a room, work two jobs, display the scrappy ingenuity and hardscrabble bravado that we like to think of as quintessentially New York, until something goes wrong.
The huge increase in families seeking shelter is proof of how precarious the lives of New York’s working poor are.

Click here to read the full article.

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