Posted on August 15th, 2023
REPORT: No Keys to Safe and Decent Housing in New York’s “Safety Net”
The Inadequacy of the Public Assistance Shelter Allowance and Rental Supplements
More than ever before, the COVID-19 public health crisis highlighted that housing is essential to health and wellbeing. Without safe and stable housing, New Yorkers are unable to achieve optimal health, educational, economic, and social outcomes.
Yet for most New York households that rely on public assistance, housing instability is unavoidable. Safe and habitable rental units in the private rental market simply do not exist at price points that are affordable for households relying on public assistance’s allowance for rent (the “shelter allowance” or “rent allowance”).
New York’s shelter allowance has not been updated for households with families since 2003 and has not been updated for households without children since 1988. The current shelter allowance for a family of three with children ranges from a low of $259 a month in Franklin County to a high of $447 in Suffolk County. These amounts are not enough to cover the cost of any habitable rental unit in New York State, falling hundreds of dollars below what the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has determined to be fair market rents for these areas.
Our new report, No Keys to Safe and Decent Housing in New York’s “Safety Net”, documents the inadequacy of rental assistance for public assistance recipients, and offers policy recommendations to solve the problem of housing instability and homelessness for public assistance recipients.
Read more about our findings and our recommendations in our full report.
Note: Report updated 8/23/2023 to correct Westchester information in Appendix II (page 50).
Posted on December 11th, 2019
At an annual cost of $15,394, quality child care is unaffordable for 90% of New York families. New York State ranks 6th out of all 50 states for the most expensive infant care. In fact, a minimum wage worker would have to work for 35 weeks just to pay for one infant’s child care! Yet subsidized child care is underfunded and increasingly unavailable.
Shouldering the Strain: How Counties Cope with Inadequate Child Care* breaks down the top methods that counties across New York State employ to deal with this chronic and worsening underfunding. Based on data collected by Empire Justice from July to August of this year, this report includes up-to-date information on the methods counties use to try and stretch child care funds, from lowering eligibility levels or closing intake to denying subsidies to parents and caretakers with disabilities.
Shouldering the Strain also includes information on current initiatives that are helping to increase access to child care, as well as recommendations on what New York State must do next: assess the unmet need; create consistent eligibility requirements, assure that copays are affordable, and expand funding for facilitated enrollment and all child care.
Stagnant funding, a growing low wage work force, and the steadily increasing cost of child care have created a perfect storm, straining New York’s child care subsidy program to the breaking point. This report is a must-read for anyone who is trying to understand the complex patchwork of child care subsidy programs across the state.
*Report has been updated January 17, 2020, to make corrections to Fig. 1 and 5.
Posted on November 4th, 2019
Posted on April 24th, 2019
In our new report Poverty and Violence: Does New York’s Family Violence Option Make a Difference?, we find that the Family Violence Option program does properly assist many domestic violence victims, but that others may not be as well served, for reasons ranging from inadequate training of front-line Department of Social Services staff, to challenges in serving immigrants. We believe that our recommendations, would, enhance the effectiveness of the Family Violence Option, and bring greater safety and stability to the lives of victims of domestic violence.
Read the full report here.
REPORT: Too Big to Fail… Too Poor to Bank: How Mainstream Financial Services Can Help Low-Income Working Families Succeed
Posted on September 6th, 2018
Posted on January 16th, 2018
We are proud to announce the release of our latest data-rich report, “#AllTogetherNow: Improving Small Business Lending in the Rochester NY Community,” which looks at aggregate small business lending in 2015 and compares it to the distribution of occupied businesses for the city of Rochester, Monroe County and the rest of the Rochester metro area
As Research/Policy Analyst and principal author of the report Barbara Van Kerkhove, PhD. said “our community needs to work together to improve access to credit for businesses located in the city of Rochester. As our report shows, the city has 7,245 occupied businesses or 28% of the businesses in the Rochester area. However, city businesses received only 17% of the area’s loans in 2015, and only 20% of the total dollar volume of lending. The discrepancies were clearest in areas with low to moderate income census tracts and with significant communities of color.
Some key findings include:
- Lending in the towns of Monroe County was higher than one would expect based on the proportion of businesses. The towns had 11,894 occupied businesses or 45% of the area’s businesses, but received 52% of the MSA’s loans and 52% of the MSA’s lending volume.
- When it comes to the number of small business loans, the area’s 8 largest banks made only 6,035 loans for 38% of the market, less than one-half of their combined 83% depository market share.
- Five large credit card lenders (American Express, Capital One, Synchrony, US Bank and Citibank) capture more of the small business loan market than the top 8 banks. Together, these lenders made 7,497 loans, for 47% of the Rochester metro area market.
Posted on April 7th, 2016
“Divergent Paths: The need for more uniform standards and practices in New York State’s residential foreclosure conference process” reveals wide variations in the implementation of foreclosure settlement conference rules. The wide variations in implementation have the potential to leave tens of thousands of New Yorkers at heightened risk of losing their homes. This report analyzes the practices and procedures of New York State’s pioneering court-mediated settlement conference program – a program designed to help New Yorkers save their homes from foreclosure – and reveals that a lack of strong statewide guidance has resulted in procedures that vary significantly based on where homeowners live.
Some of the key recommendations from the report include:
- Implement and enforce the settlement conference process more uniformly and consistently across the state. For example:
- Create uniform procedures clarifying the courts’ authority when parties fail to negotiate in good faith
- Create uniform mechanisms for enforcement when attorneys appear without settlement authority or necessary knowledge to engage in negotiations
- Adopt common sense practices to ensure accountability and efficiency in order to expedite settlement conferences and compliance with the law’s requirements. These practices include:
- Adoption of uniform order forms
- Improvements in record keeping
- Appointment of a dedicated mediator for the duration of each case
- Separate calendars for first-time settlement conferences
Posted on December 2nd, 2015
Turn up the Heat: It’s Time to Raise New York’s Shelter and Fuel Allowances illustrates how the public assistance shelter and fuel allowances are so far out of step with the actual costs of housing and heating, they are pushing many financially fragile New Yorkers out of homes and into homelessness.
Consider this: According to HUD, New York had the biggest increase in homelessness of any state between 2013 and 2014, and the NYS Education Department reports that the number of homeless children between 2009 and 2014 increased by more than a third.
Consider this: New York’s fuel allowance has not been increased in 28 years. And in Albany County, the shelter allowance for a one bedroom apartment is $309, less than 40% of the HUD Fair Market Rent for the Region.
The numbers simply don’t add up to allow for safe, stable, warm housing – essentials of life for everyone, but particularly for children. New York has a golden opportunity to help stabilize families in their homes by making modest increases in the shelter and heating allowances. These investments will help avoid the much costlier expense of emergency shelter stays and the negative impact on children’s well-being and educational attainment that is a proven result of homelessness.
“Empire Justice Center: Housing and heating allowances aren’t adequate” – Times Union, December 2, 2015
“Study: Heating, Shelter Assistance Not Enough, Leads to Homelessness” – Public News Service, January 20, 2016
Posted on September 18th, 2015
The Lingering Storm: Mortgage Lending Disparities on Long Island examines mortgage lending, denial rates and denial disparities in 2013 to evaluate the recovery of Long Island communities in terms of access to mortgage credit and the greater American Dream. In an effort to combat our nation’s discriminatory housing policies, we offer several recommendations for policy makers at all levels of government.
Empire Justice Center’s newest report, “The Lingering Storm: Mortgage Lending Disparities on Long Island,” is a snapshot of mortgage lending in 2013, exploring the recovery of Long Island communities and their access to mortgage credit and, by extension, access to the American Dream of homeownership.
Some of the report’s specific recommendations include:
- Increase funding to HUD-approved housing counselors to increase the number of consumers financially ready and able to qualify for, and maintain, prime-rate loans.
- Modernize the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) to specifically obligate covered institutions to serve people and communities of color, especially African American, Latino, and recent immigrant people and communities.
- Use alternative credit scoring models to increase the chance that applicants with “thin files”—limited credit histories or not enough credit accounts—will be approved for loans.
- Create a state Community Restoration Fund (CRF) or similar model for the flexible acquisition and disposition of distressed mortgages and foreclosed or vacant properties to get homes back on the market for purchase by home buyers.
CLICK HERE to read The New York Times article on the National Fair Housing Alliance’s investigations into housing discrimination entitled “How Segregation Destroys Black Wealth.”
Media: “Counseling, new rules could widen home ownership, study says” (Newsday, 9/18/2015)
Media: “Report: Bank policies worsen foreclosure crisis in areas” (News 12 Long Island, 9/18/2015)
Posted on September 4th, 2015
Health Insurance Exchanges have the potential to eliminate many existing barriers to health insurance coverage for low-income workers facing reductions in salaries and benefits. Immigrant families, whose incomes tend to be lower to begin with, have been particularly hard hit by escalating health care costs. National figures from 2010 indicate that 75% of workers in noncitizen families were in traditional blue collar jobs, as compared to 60% of workers from citizen families. The average median annual income for noncitizens was $25,000, roughly half the amount for citizen households. In New York, home to 4.3 million immigrants, noncitizens are over three times as likely as citizens to lack health insurance.
This newest update clarifies that noncitizens are considered PRUCOL for Medicaid purposes if they have evidence that the immigration services have affirmatively decided not to pursue their deportation, for example, if they present a court order showing that removal proceedings against them have been terminated.