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Housing Subsidy Has High-Profile Foe

Housing Subsidy Has High-Profile Foe

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is lobbying Gov. David Patterson not to sign into law a bill that would cap the amount of income some city residents with HIV pay for rent. Under current regulations clients receiving housing subsidies from the city's HIV/AIDS Service Administration must pay all but $344 of their income in rent.

On April 27 the state senate voted 42-19 for a measure to require that HASA clients spend no more than 30% of their income on rent. The assembly voted 84-54 for the bill in January.

However, the mayor's office contends the city already will spend $150 million on the program this fiscal year and that the change would cost it an additional 10%. The state sets policy for the program and funds it with the city, which administers it.

If Patterson approves the bill, it would set an "expensive precedent" by basing rental contributions on medical diagnoses rather than income, said Jessica Scaperotti, a Bloomberg spokeswoman. "As sympathetic as we are to the people who this would help, this nevertheless is yet another unfunded mandate from Albany -- and one that will have significant immediate and long-term costs," she said.

The bill's additional cost to the city and state would be $19 million, said Ginny Shubert of Shubert Botein Policy Associates, a New York advocacy and analysis group. However, that would be offset by $20 million in savings from fewer evictions, rental arrears, and emergency housing payments.

The SBPA analysis vastly overestimates the number of evictions that would be prevented and underestimates the program's per-person costs, said Matt Brune, HASA's deputy commissioner.

Patterson's position is still unclear, but he has vetoed numerous bills due to budget concerns. A veto override would require a two-thirds majority in both the senate and assembly.

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