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Oh, Give Me a Home ...

Oh, Give Me a Home ...


It's amusing when supermodel Heidi Klum barks 'You're out!' to the ousted contestants on the TV show Project Runway, but it's an entirely different'and decidedly not funny'matter when HIV-positive renters hear those words after their buildings, unbeknown to them, have gone into foreclosure. And it's happening far more often than you might think, housing advocates say. 'We hear a lot about the impact of foreclosures on middle-income homeowners, but very little about the impact on low-income renters,' says Nancy Bernstine, executive director of the National AIDS Housing Coalition. 'And the impact has been significant.' Foreclosures in New York City alone have doubled since 2004, with the highest rate of increase seen in two-family and three-family buildings, according to a New York University study. Already this year city housing organizations report having received assistance requests from more than 50 HIVers faced with eviction. These groups often struggle to find affordable rental units in a city where the 'fair rental' price for a two-bedroom apartment is more than $1,300'and significantly higher in many neighborhoods, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Even with rental assistance, many evicted HIVers are forced to rely on day-to-day emergency housing, and many face the possibility of becoming homeless. Only seven states plus the District of Columbia have laws protecting renters in buildings that have gone into foreclosure, typically by either maintaining existing leases or requiring a minimum length of notice for eviction, according to the housing coalition. In the vast majority of the country, there are no such guidelines. Many tenants first learn that their building is in foreclosure only when they see a 'for sale' sign on the property'or when they're told to move out, sometimes with only a few days' notice. For HIVers in places like San Francisco, eviction means competing for rental housing with real estate speculators and former homeowners whose properties are now in foreclosure'and who can afford much higher rents. As a result, 'our rents are going even higher than they were during the dot-com boom,' says Brian Basinger, director of AIDS Housing Alliance/San Francisco. 'There's so much upward pressure on rental rates that people are getting pushed out, but where are they going to go?' Too often, the answer is to leave major urban areas for more affordable locales. But relocation can be disastrous for HIVers, who may lose their eligibility for city- or county-based health care programs when they move away, Basinger warns. 'Essentially, people are left to choose between two vital resources'affordable housing or affordable, consistent health care,' Basinger laments. 'How can you expect someone to make that kind of choice?'

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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Bob Adams