July 17, 2012

To the Editor:

I wanted to respond to some of the many lies and misleading statements by Mayor Bloomberg's administration regarding the 30 percent rent cap affordable housing bill for homeless and low-income people living with HIV/AIDS (“AIDS Rent Cap Protections Die in State Senate,” by Paul Schindler, Jul. 4-17).

The administration has cited wildly inflated cost estimates for the bill, which they have never been able to corroborate. In fact, cost analyses by independent experts and the City Council Finance Division have found that savings from reduced shelter placements would help offset the cost of implementing the proposed law, which doesn't even factor in the savings from averted healthcare costs that come with more stable housing.

According to the mayor's lobbyists, the HIV/AIDS affordable housing bill would also set some kind of precedence around housing assistance based “solely on a medical diagnosis,” which is self-evidently false. It would actually close a loophole in an existing law guaranteeing housing assistance for homeless and low-income people living with AIDS. The bill says nothing about eligibility and merely aligns the policy governing rent contributions with every other housing program in the state, including supportive housing programs for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Further muddying the waters, the administration has said that HASA clients who would be protected by the bill already receive a special allowance for food and nutrition, which again is false. While HASA clients who are permanently disabled (and therefore receive federal disability income) do qualify for limited food stamps, they do not receive the food and nutrition supplement that HASA offers to clients who receive no outside income. There is no way getting around the fact that the current policy forces chronically ill individuals to live on a mere $12 per day in the most expensive city in the country.

The bottom line is that the rent cap bill would create the same affordable housing protection in New York's HIV/AIDS rental assistance program that already exists in every other low-income housing program in the state. But it's not just a matter of basic fairness and equity — affordable housing for people living with HIV/AIDS literally saves lives. Stable housing enables people to take their medication, have proper nutrition, keep appointments, and reduces stress, all of which means lower HIV viral loads and higher CD4 counts. For a mayor who purports to care deeply about evidence-based public health, this bill should be a no-brainer.

Sean Barry


(Formerly the NYC AIDS Housing Network)



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