Low-income city housing faces new challenges

Jumaane Williams chairs a committee on housing.
City Council / John McCarten

Brooklyn Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, deputy leader of the City Council, chaired a Housing and Buildings Committee oversight hearing on March 15 on the Fiscal 2018 preliminary operating and capital budgets for the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the Fiscal 2018 preliminary operating budget for the Department of Buildings (DOB) amid impending cuts from the Donald T. Trump administration.

Williams, who represents the 45th Council District in Brooklyn, said the committee heard testimony from HPD Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer, DOB Commissioner Rick Chandler, and interested members of the public.

“There is a real concern about what will happen to some of the City’s vital programs that assist low-income New Yorkers with housing,” said Williams, chair of the Committee on Housing and Buildings, stating that the Trump Administration has announced in its “America First” budget that federal funding for housing programs will be cut by $6 billion.

“As local legislators, we are now challenged to evaluate how we will bear this Trump storm and still provide much-needed services to our city,” he added.

The committee examined all components of HPD’s $903 million dollar expense budget, and $3 billion dollar capital budget, along with details and progress related to Mayor de Blasio’s Housing Plan.

The committee also received updates on the progress related to the DOB’s One City Built to Last initiative, improvements to its permit filing system and how DOB will address the increase in construction related accidents and injuries, Williams said.

Last week, the Trump Administration announced major cuts to New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). NYCHA will receive at least $35 million less in federal aid this year.

“Given the recent reports that the federal government has proposed budget cuts to vital housing programs, including Community Development Block (CDBG) funding, and the Section 8 program, the Committee hopes to gain a clearer sense of how HPD would absorb these potential cuts and how this will impact its operations and service levels,” Williams said. CDBG funding is used to support the City’s code enforcement.

Currently, Williams said HPD receives 86 percent of its budget from the federal government, making it one of the few city agencies that has a disproportionate reliance on federal funds.

He said Trump’s threats to deny federal funding to sanctuary cities would impact the agency severely, “given New York City is a self-proclaimed sanctuary city.”

In an effort to combat potential cuts, Williams said HPD sent a joint letter with other agencies to the HUD transition team in January.

The letter detailed the devastating impact cuts would have on the most vulnerable in New York City, he said, adding that HPD also coordinated meetings with policy makers in Washington, D.C. to reiterate the importance of federal funding for the agency.

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