Housing March
February 2nd 2005  NYC


VOLUME 4, ISSUE 3 | Jan 20 - 26, 2005   GAY CITY NEWS

HEALTH

Bombshell: City Lacks AIDS Housing

Bloomberg quietly put out findings Saturday under threat of Gotbaum news conference

By LES McLAIN

A controversial study of city housing for people living with HIV/AIDS, released by the Bloomberg administration Saturday under pressure from advocates, found that the amount and quality of the housing was insufficient to meet the needs of New York’s HIV-positive population.

The findings were originally scheduled to be released in the fall of 2003 but were not finalized until February 2004, according to the report’s preface, which also asserted that the city continued to review its findings until this past November.

Results of the study were leaked as early as last February, however, by Housing Works, an AIDS housing advocacy group. In response, AIDS activists and professionals began asking the mayor’s office when the report would be released, but got no answers. Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum had planned a press conference for Sunday afternoon to demand the public release of the report. In reaction to news of Gotbaum’s plans, Mayor Michael Bloomberg released the report early Saturday morning through the health department, a move seen as a ploy to detract media attention from the damning findings it contained.

“It comes as no surprise that the Bloomberg administration hastily put out its HIV/AIDS housing report less than 48 hours before I was to stand alongside elected officials and advocates to demand its release after a year-long delay,” Gotbaum said in a statement. “The administration sat on this report and hoped no one would notice as the HIV/AIDS housing crisis became more severe.”

Gina Quattrochi, the CEO of Bailey House, another AIDS housing group, who sat on the study’s advisory board, said the report would “never have been released” without the pressure put on the administration by the upcoming press conference.

“We knew they had it. It was common knowledge that they had it,” Quattrochi said. “They also spent federal dollars on it, and you can’t spend federal dollars on something and not have a deliverable. I question the whole strategy and the ethics of this.”

The study, conducted by the Hudson Planning Group and the University of Pennsylvania, included interviews with more than 2,000 people living with HIV/AIDS as well as comments from more than 200 field workers active in dealing with the crisis. It praised the city government for its role in recognizing and providing housing for homeless people with HIV/AIDS. However, it said, advances in medicine and the spread of both AIDS and homelessness have increased the number of people in need of this service.

“Using conservative estimates, the current unmet need for housing among persons currently living with HIV/AIDS is 2,400 additional units,” the report said. “By 2010, conservative estimates suggest that the system will require a total of more than 10,000 to 14,000 additional housing units. The potential costs of such housing are significant, but [the greater New York City area] must begin to explore and develop financing models that will address this need.”

Despite the findings, the mayor’s office and the health department have been dismissive of the recommendations, criticizing the report for being too general and lacking cost estimates. Public statements by both agencies questioned the accuracy of the findings.

“Many parts of the report lack specific, practical program suggestions and cost estimates. Furthermore, the report did not use sound methods to determine critically important housing need projections,” the health department said in a written statement.

The mayor’s office declined specific comment on the report, referring questions to the health department, but denied allegations that the administration intentionally suppressed the document.

The needs identified in the report are familiar to HIV/AIDS housing advocates, who say that have been trying to get the city’s attention about this issue for years. Jennifer Flynn, the director of the New York City AIDS Housing Network who also sat on the study’s advisory board, said the health department’s complaints about the study’s methodology are unfounded.

“It’s not as if it was some secret methodology that was created in a vault,” she told Gay City News. “Every month we were going to them with all of the information. The methodology was the first thing that they released. The thing they’re questioning is the very thing [the Hudson Planning Group] had to put in proposal to get the contract.

“To dismiss [the study] is ridiculous. Whether you think we need 10,000 more units in five years or 2,000 more in five years, the point is that we’re still not creating supportive permanent housing for people with AIDS at all. Everyone agrees there’s going to be more of a need. Rather than dismissing the findings, they city should just recognize the need exists and start building more housing.”

Flynn and Quattrochi have been among the most outspoken critics of a housing policy that keep hundreds of people living with AIDS in single room occupancy facilities intended to be temporary for indefinite periods of time. Those facilities often do not meet the city’s definition of medically appropriate housing for people living with AIDS and studies by the city comptroller’s office have found that the cost of housing people in this way greatly exceeds the cost of finding permanent housing for them, a finding echoed in the report released this weekend.

Gotbaum has drafted a letter to Bloomberg that raises questions about the “circumstances surrounding [the report’s] release” and about the attacks on its methodology. Her office will continue to follow this issue to see if the mayor responds to the housing needs identified by the report. Members of the AIDS advocacy community say they will be watching too.

“I would hope that [the administration] would take the recommendations seriously and utilize the data to really tackle the issue of HIV/AIDS homelessness, not only in general but also as part of the mayor’s plan to end homelessness,” said Quattrochi. “I mean, are we only ending homelessness for people who are not infected?”



Housing March            
February 2nd 2005  NYC     pdf flyer 

 

 Demonstrators Take Fight for Housing to City Hall

Over 7,000 March Across Brooklyn Bridge to Mayor's Doorstep to Advocate Changes in Zoning Codes and Increased Funding

By Julie Schneyer
Spectator Staff Writer
February 03, 2005


Brought together in a rally yesterday for affordable housing, three strangers embraced each other and cried within 10 minutes of meeting each other.

Exchanging phone numbers with the promise of helping each other in any way they could, the demonstrators joined thousands with shared experiences of homelessness, AIDS, and a common dream: a New York in which every person has a home, regardless of income.

Housing Here and Now, a coalition of affordable housing groups, labor unions, AIDS activists, and community and church groups, held the rally yesterday at City Hall. A march across the Brooklyn Bridge kicked off the event, which drew an unprecedented seven to eight thousand participants.

The event, which featured about a dozen speakers from the various groups within the coalition, was a chance for Housing Here and Now to garner support for their current initiatives. These include pressing elected officials to fulfill the promise to use $1 billion in excess revenue generated by the Battery Park City Authority to create 10,000 low and moderate income housing units.

One speaker’s comment that “housing has become an issue for every constituency in the city except the wealthiest” was apt given the diversity of the crowd.

“It used to be that you only had one group or neighborhood represented in this struggle,” said David Newton, an advocate with the Center for Urban Communication Services. “But look—this is a whole assortment of people, a whole lot of diverse people, all asking for the same thing.”

Many who attended the rally are or have been homeless for extended periods of time and feel a guarantee from the government for affordable housing is long overdue.

“This is supposed to be the land of plenty here, but where are the houses?” Verlene Williams, who has been in the shelter system for the past two years, asked.

A focal point of the rally was the issue of mandatory inclusionary zoning, a policy that, if approved by City Council this spring, would require at least 30 percent of any new residential development to be affordable housing, units in which renters make less than 80 percent of the median income.

Participants also demanded that the city grant them right to determine their own rent laws, provide permanent housing for homeless people living with AIDS, and support legislation for better housing inspections and tougher penalties for unhealthy home conditions.

Mayor Bloomberg’s current plans to rezone many areas of the city, including the West Side and the northwest Brooklyn waterfront, have the potential to open up 80,000 new housing units. Incentives for developers to participate in optional inclusionary zoning include allotting more square footage for buildings.

But, without mandatory inclusionary zoning, there are no guarantees that developers will opt for this course, in which case no relief would come to those in need.

Marchers and speakers decried incentives as a half-measure that would not fix the problem, and voiced anger at the fact that mandatory inclusionary zoning has not already become a reality.

“This is a human right,” said Denise Bosworth, a woman who has been homeless for the past 10 years. “People don’t want to come to terms with the fact that homelessness is an issue—they are intentionally bringing about a lot of apathy. [This rally] is society admitting that the government is defaulting,” she said.

According to Reverend Dr. Herbert Daughtry, an involved advocate who spoke at various times throughout the rally, the affordable housing advocates will not give up until the government makes greater efforts to guarantee affordable housing.

“We’ll keep on and maybe next time heighten it to civil disobedience—keep on doing it the good old American way,” Daughtry said.

 

 


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