Days before the end of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan), Chair of the Committee on Social Services.
Including State Senator Brian Kavanagh, Chair of the Committee on Housing, Construction and Community Development were joined by advocates for domestic violence survivors and homelessness providers to urge Governor Kathy Hochul to sign their legislation, bill A.8009/S.6573, which would increase the State Family Homelessness and Eviction Prevention Supplement (FHEPS) voucher amount to 100% of fair market rent. The voucher is designed to provide domestic violence survivors and their families, along with other vulnerable New Yorkers, with a reliable source of rental assistance.
“As we urge survivors of domestic violence to step forward and ask for help to escape their abusers, it is vital that we have their backs and ensure that they have safe and stable housing,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-New York). “Increasing the FHEPS voucher amount will make a real impact on New York’s intractable homelessness crisis by keeping families off the streets. For far too long, the cost of addressing the homelessness crisis has been used as an excuse for inaction. We have seen that the cost of inaction is incalculable, and is hurting New York’s families and communities. With a new Governor, we have an opportunity to chart a new path on addressing homelessness, and I urge Governor Hochul to lead on this issue by signing the FHEPS bill into law immediately.”
“The State’s insistence for many years that the value of these vouchers must be set below the fair market rent has prevented far too many families from obtaining safe, permanent housing through the FHEPS program,” said State Senator Brian Kavanagh, chair of the Senate Housing Committee.
“I thank Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal for championing this bill in the Assembly and the more than 100 organizations who have pushed for this critical reform — especially the domestic violence and homelessness prevention advocates gathered today. This is one more important step, among many, that we must take to end homelessness and ensure that everyone has access to a safe place to live.”
The FHEPS program is a state-funded voucher program designed to help families who are at risk of eviction or those who are in shelter find permanent affordable housing. The program is available to families with children receiving cash assistance who are facing threats to their housing stability, such as domestic violence.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the United States. In 2019, domestic violence surpassed eviction as the leading cause of homelessness in New York. The COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened domestic violence around the world, including right here in New York, as New Yorkers were locked down with a physically and/or emotionally abusive partner. In fact, according to the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, New York City experienced at least a 10% increase in domestic violence calls to the police department.
“When you learn about domestic violence a lot of people ask “why don’t they just leave?” The answer is often because there isn’t a safe place to go – in fact domestic violence is the number one reason families enter shelter in New York City. Governor Hochul has a chance to change that by signing A8009/S6573 and providing meaningful rental assistance to give survivors hope that there is a way out: with a FHEPS voucher valued at Fair Market Rent they would be able to leave their abusers without having to fall into homelessness. We are grateful to Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal and Senator Kavanagh for their leadership on this issue and urge Governor Hochul to act swiftly,” said Catherine Trapani, Executive Director, Homeless Services United.
“Safe Horizon urges Governor Hochul to sign into law A.8009/S.6573, sponsored by Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal and Senator Brian Kavanagh, and permanently raise the FHEPS rent cap to Fair Market Rent. For too many survivors of domestic violence and other forms of violence and abuse, safe, stable, affordable housing remains out of reach. The inability to access housing forces survivors to choose between homelessness and remaining in an abusive household. By raising the FHEPS rent cap, we can enable families and domestic violence survivors to find a home and find safety, stability, and healing,” said Jimmy Meagher, Policy Director, Government Affairs, Safe Horizon.
“For far too long, domestic violence has been the leading cause of homelessness, pushing nearly 19,000 New Yorkers into shelter annually. Despite the scale of this crisis, there are few housing resources available for them. We can change that with this legislation from Assembly Member Rosenthal and Senator Kavanagh. By increasing the state rental subsidy up to fair market rent rates, the state can play a crucial role in ending the cycle of abuse and homelessness for survivors and their children. We want to thank Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal and Senator Kavanagh for passing this legislation, and Governor Hochul for the work she’s already done to elevate the issue of domestic violence in our community. We urge the Governor to sign this legislation and look forward to working with her and her administration on ending homelessness in New York,” Nicole Branca, Executive Director of New Destiny Housing, co-lead of the Family Homelessness Coalition.
“Homeless families in New York City now spend an average of more than 500 days in shelter before they can move to safe permanent housing they can afford. Raising the amount of rent that state vouchers can pay is the quickest and best way to reduce that time. We hope Governor Hochul will sign the FHEPS increase bill this week so homeless families can return to housing as quickly as possible,” Ted Houghton, President, Gateway Housing.
“Affordable and stable housing is critical for survivors to be able to rebuild their lives and live free from abuse. Partner violence is a leading cause of homelessness, and affordable housing – especially in NYC – is out of reach for many, with the result that many survivors and their children end up living in a series of unstable and unpredictable situations. By increasing the amount of the state FHEPS voucher, New York will not only give survivors a real chance to access the kind of housing they deserve, but will signal to landlords statewide that our government is committed to supporting survivors. Her Justice urges the Governor to sign this bill into law as soon as possible” said Amy Barasch, Executive Director of Her Justice.
“Families with children facing domestic violence already endure a wide range of challenges to accessing healthcare, education, and other key services,” said Baaba Halm, Vice President and New York Market Leader, Enterprise Community Partners. “Housing doesn’t have to be one of them. By raising the FHEPS voucher amount to Fair Market rent, we can provide new hope and stability to families in these dire circumstances. Enterprise Community Partners is proud to stand with domestic violence advocates, homeless service providers, and legislators in support of bill S6573/A8009.”
Amber Marshall, Staff Attorney in the Bronx Housing Justice Unit at The Legal Aid Society, said: “Domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness, and because of the pandemic, this bill comes at a particularly critical time. An increase in FHEPS means that many of our clients and families struggling with DV would secure or maintain safe and stable housing, finally exiting shelter or avoiding the disruption of eviction. Governor Hochul must act now and sign this bill into law. We thank Assemblymember Rosenthal and Senator Kavanagh for their leadership on this important issue.”
“Families should not have to choose between enduring domestic violence or experiencing homelessness. By raising the value of State FHEPS vouchers to cover the true cost of rent in New York, as City and federal rental assistance programs have already done, this bill will help families secure permanent housing, where they can begin healing from the trauma they have experienced. VOA-GNY thanks Assemblymember Rosenthal and Senator Kavanagh for their leadership on this issue. We urge Governor Hochul to send a clear message to survivors of domestic violence that their safety and recovery is a priority by signing this bill,” said Myung J. Lee, President and CEO of Volunteers of America.
“We want to thank Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal , Senator Brian Kavanagh and our fellow advocates for putting together today’s event urging Governor Hochul to sign the legislation to increase the state FHEPS voucher,” said the Family Homelessness Coalition. “The pandemic not only intensified financial insecurity for many low-income families but increased the stress and isolation many survivors of domestic violence already face, which is the leading cause of family homelessness. Governor Hochul has a chance to make a difference in the lives of survivors by signing the bill into law. We urge her to take action before Domestic Violence Awareness Month ends this Sunday and stop the current homelessness crisis from escalating even further.”
Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, Executive Director of Sanctuary for Families, said, “Under the current rent maximums, FHEPS is rarely a useful path to stable housing for our clients as it is close to impossible to find an apartment below fair market rent. Increasing the FHEPS rent maximums to be in line with Section 8 and City FHEPS would be transformative for survivors of domestic violence who need safe and stable housing in order to escape the cycle of violence and protect themselves. Sanctuary for Families thanks Assembly Member Rosenthal and Senator Kavanagh for their leadership and urges the Governor to sign this critical legislation into law.”
“Raising State FHEPS housing vouchers to fair market rate doesn’t just make ethical sense, it makes economic sense. It’s so much cheaper to help hardworking New Yorkers find a home than it is to pay for the never-ending shelter shuffle. Domestic violence victims need the State’s help more than ever to find a safe, stable home of their own. We hope Governor Hochul signs AM Rosenthal and Sen Kavanagh’s bill TODAY,” Corinne Low, co-founder, UWS Open Hearts.
“We applaud Senator Kavanagh and Assemblymember Rosenthal for their leadership on this legislation and we are committed to working with a diverse array of housing advocates to increase StateFHEPS voucher limits and expand housing access for vulnerable New Yorkers at this critical time,” said REBNY President James Whelan. “Following New York City government’s recent action to increase CityFHEPS voucher limits, it is important for the State to take similar action and ensure a level playing field for voucher holders, which will mark a key step forward in advancing our shared housing goals.”
“NYLAG on behalf of hundreds of clients, who are survivors of domestic violence strongly urge the passage of A.8009/S.6573. Since March 2020, we have assisted over 750 survivors seeking protection from abuse. One of the primary obstacles survivors face when deciding whether to flee is the lack of affordable housing. Passing A.8009/S.6573 is one important step towards enabling survivors to achieve independence, rebuild safely, and make decisions about them and their children’s safety and future, uninhibited by the fear of where they will live and how.” said Amanda Beltz, Director & Shani Adess, Associate Director of the Domestic Violence Law Unit at New York Legal Assistance Group
FHEPS vouchers currently cover only 85% of fair market rent. There are no neighborhoods in New York City where the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment is affordable to a family with an existing voucher. The current vouchers are virtually unusable to families who need them. New York City recently increased its CityFHEPS voucher amount, which serves a different population than the state FHEPS program, by more than 90 percent. So now there is a two-tired voucher system in place, which arbitrarily offers some classes of people more rental assistance than others.
Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal is the Chair of the Committee on Social Services. She represents the 67h Assembly district, which includes the Upper West Side and Hell’s Kitchen.
Senator Brian Kavanagh is the Chair of the Senate Committee on Housing, Construction and Community Development. He represents the 26th Senatorial District covering Lower Manhattan and the western part of Brooklyn.