The Real Estate Board of New York to New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA) regarding amendments to Title 68 – City FHEPS

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The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) is the City’s leading real estate trade association representing commercial, residential, and institutional property owners, builders, managers, investors, brokers, salespeople, and other organizations and individuals active in New York City real estate. Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments for the proposed amendments to Title 68 of the Rules of the City of New York, for the City Family Homelessness and Eviction Prevention Supplement (CityFHEPS) rental assistance program.

REBNY appreciates the urgency by the agency to implement the requirements of Intro 146-C to increase rent levels to CityFHEPS prior to the statutory deadlines. It is encouraging that the rule furthers the spirit of the legislation by raising the maximum rent levels for apartments to NYCHA Section 8 standards, including a clarification that SCRIE and DRIE households can also access CityFHEPS if otherwise eligible, and the simplification of the street homeless definition. Collectively, these changes will help more households to access or maintain their permanent housing.

In coordination with the organizations that have spearheaded efforts to increase voucher payment standards and access, REBNY echoes the calls of these groups to further improve the CityFHEPS program through the rules amendment process to ensure those at risk of or currently experiencing homelessness can access the program in a timely manner and provide long-term housing stability that slowly tapers off assistance as tenants’ incomes rise over time. Current eligibility requirements are counter intuitive to fostering long term financial mobility and an overly burdensome process unduly punishes eligible tenants and creates frustration for owners and tenants alike.

The recommendations are as follows:

Eligibility Recommendations

·       § 10-03 (a) (1) and § 10-04 (a) (1) Initial eligibility income criteria should mirror Section 8 instead of 200% FPL to not be in conflict with minimum wage income and hourly job weekly schedules. 

·       § 10-08 (a) (1) Renewal eligibility income criteria should mirror Section 8 instead of 250% FPL to allow households to earn more over time and rise out of poverty, forcing them to walk a tightrope to maintain their housing. Under Section 8’s income renewal criteria the household only becomes ineligible when 30% of their income equals the cost of their rent, allowing the household to earn more and ensuring they are not rent-burdened after the voucher ends. 

·       § 10-04 (a) (8) (A) and § 10-04 (b) and § 10-04 (c) Remove the 90-day qualifying shelter stay requirement for shelter residents – to mandate a family or individual in shelter to wait 90 days to demonstrate they “really” need a housing voucher is inhumane and must end. Households should be eligible for a CityFHEPS rent assistance voucher once approved for residency in a qualifying shelter (e.g. DHS or HRA DV).

·       § 10-01 (nn) Clarify the “Street homeless” definition to include anyone receiving case management services at a DHS Drop-In Center or residing in a Safe Haven facility. Direct access to a CityFHEPS voucher will help those who do not need more supportive settings to secure permanent housing and free up limited safe-haven capacity for others in need more quickly.

·       § 10-03 (a) (6) (B) Require a verified rent-demand letter instead of eviction proceeding to qualify for CityFHEPS in-community. A household should not be put at greater risk of eviction in order to qualify for assistance to stabilize their housing. 

 

Process Recommendations

·       Establish and publicize referral processes for “qualifying CityFHEPS programs” to ensure meaningful access to CityFHEPS vouchers to avert entry into a DHS or HRA DV shelter.

·       Streamline the opening of Single Issuance Cases to deliver CityFHEPS for eligible households without active Public Assistance cases. 

o   Improve communication around Single Issuance cases across agencies.

o   Provide tenants with a CityFHEPS shopping letter and presumptive eligibility, while coordinating PA single issuance paperwork separately, budgeting the household and opening the single issuance when the apartment is located.

·       Tenants, landlords, and property managers need more robust notifications for renewal and budget issues/changes in rent levels, like Section 8. Additionally, tenants and landlords need a way to troubleshoot directly with HRA disruptions in Public Assistance benefits which cause CityFHEPS to “fall off” budget.