Yesterday, Governor Paterson vetoed a bill that would have capped the rents people with HIV and AIDS pay at 30 percent, calling it “my most difficult veto” but a necessary evil to keep the state’s grotesque budget at bay. Today, not surprisingly, a bunch of protesters showed up outside the governor’s offices here in the city to express their frustration.
“Even though I’m in a rental assistance program, I’m constantly forced to rob Peter to pay Paul. One month I pay the gas and telephone bill and the next month I pay the light bill, all the while hoping that nothing gets shut off,” James Dean, who pays 62 percent of his monthly disability income toward rent, told Gothamist. Advocates now fear those in the program–many of whom pay a majority of their income toward rent despite the subsidy–could be forced into the streets, making it even harder for them to receive care, which could also become more expensive as a result, still taxing the state’s limited resources.
It wasn’t just the protesters who were miffed. Council Speaker Christine Quinn, along with Councilwomen Annabel Palma and Helen Foster, released a statement condemning the veto:
We are deeply disappointed to hear that last night Gov. Paterson decided not to stand up for New York’s most vulnerable citizens.
The legislation before the Governor could have provided affordable housing protection to more than 11,000 New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS–many of whom may eventually face eviction due to their high rent burdens. This bill would have provided critical relief to people living with HIV/AIDS who currently pay as much as 70 percent of their income towards rent, leaving many of them to live on about $11 a day.
But instead, these New Yorkers have been left to fend for themselves when now, in the midst of a recession, they need the most assistance.
This could even be a loser for landlords, assuming some of these thousands of apartments become vacant and they cannot be readily filled. Though tenants were paying lower rents, the city and state made up the difference.
The only person satisfied with the veto is Mayor Bloomberg, who the Times says lobbied vigorously for the rollback. “This is not the time for unfunded mandates, no matter how well-intentioned,” the mayor said in a statment.