ARE YOU ONE PAYCHECK AWAY FROM HOMELESSNESS?

The stats are astounding and more common than you can imagine!

Aired on February 22, 2019. 

TRANSCRIPT

> NOBODY LIKES TO THINK ABOUT IT, BUT WHAT IF YOU WERE A FAMILY MEMBER WHO LOSES A JOB AND YOUR PRIMARY SOURCE OF INCOME IS CUT OFF?

EVEN IF IT'S JUST FOR A FEW MONTHS.

DO YOU HAVE ENOUGH SAVINGS TO GET YOU THROUGH THIS TEMPORARY SETBACK?

THE NONPROFIT ASSOCIATION FOR NEIGHBORHOOD AND HOUSING DEVELOPMENT HAS REVEALED THAT NEARLY 60%, THAT'S 6-0 PERCENT OF NEW YORK CITY RESIDENTS DON'T HAVE ENOUGH CASH IN THE BANK TO COVER HOUSEHOLD EXPENSES, SUCH AS FOOD AND RENT, FOR AT LEAST THREE MONTHS.

THIS IS PART OF OUR INITIATIVE CHASING THE DREAM THAT EXAMINES POVERTY OPPORTUNITY AND INEQUALITY IN AMERICA.

AMY ZIMMER IS A REPORTER AND SHE'S HERE WITH US TO SHARE MORE ABOUT HER FINDINGS.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

WHAT SURPRISED YOU THE MOST AS A CONSEQUENCE OF YOUR REPORTING AND YOUR RESEARCH HERE?

THE SHEAR NUMBERS.

I MEAN, I THINK THAT WE KNOW PEOPLE ARE STRUGGLING IN NEW YORK CITY AND THERE'S A LOT OF ECONOMIC ANXIETY, BUT JUST SEEING THAT NEARLY 60% OF NEW YORKERS ARE THAT CLOSE TO POSSIBLE EVICTION, LOSING THEIR HOMES, IT IS SURPRISING, AND WE ALL COMPLAIN ABOUT RENT, RENT BEING SO HIGH, BUT I THINK WE DON'T REALIZE JUST HOW INSECURE PEOPLE ARE AND HOW AT RISK FOR HOMELESSNESS THEY ARE.

WHAT DOES THIS SAY ABOUT NEW YORK CITY AND THE NOTION OF CLASS DIVIDES AND WHO CAN EVEN AFFORD TO LIVE IN NEW YORK CITY ANYMORE?

I MEAN, THAT'S SOMETHING THAT I THINK PEOPLE ARE CONSTANTLY TALKING ABOUT, AND I THINK IT SHOWS THAT, FIRST OF ALL, LOW INCOME PEOPLE OBVIOUSLY ARE STRUGGLING AND RENTS HAVE BEEN GROWING MUCH FASTER THAN INCOMES, BUT I THINK A LOT OF MIDDLE CLASS NEW YORKERS ARE STRUGGLING AS WELL.

60% IS A LOT AND IT'S -- IT IS VERY SCARY TO THINK THAT IF YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY OR IF YOU MISS WORK BECAUSE OF THAT AND LOSE ONE OR TWO PAYCHECKS, THAT'S IT, YOU HAVE NO CUSHION.

I JUST HAD BACK SURGERY AND WHEN I WAS DOING THE RESEARCH FOR OUR CONVERSATION HERE I THOUGHT, DO YOU KNOW WHAT, IF I'M A WORKER IN NEW YORK CITY, YOU KNOW, BLUE COLLAR LABORER, WHICH I DID IN COLLEGE AND LAW SCHOOL, AND ALL OF A SUDDEN I'VE GOT BACK SURGERY AND I'M OUT FOR A WHILE, I COULD BE ONE OF THIS 60% THAT'S DOING IT.

LET ME ASK YOU THIS: DID YOU FIND IN TERMS OF GEOGRAPHICAL AREAS IN THE CITY THAT SOME ARE MORE SUBJECT TO THE FEARS THAN OTHERS?

SO DEFINITELY.

IN THE BRONX, THE BRONX HAD THE HIGHEST PERCENTAGE OF PEOPLE WHO HAD VERY LITTLE IN TERMS OF A CUSHION.

SO SOUTH BRONX, 75% OF RESIDENTS THERE DON'T HAVE EMERGENCY SAVINGS.

THAT'S A FRIGHTENING NUMBER.

IT IS VERY FRIGHTENING.

IN BROOKLYN YOU HAVE BUSHWICK, BEDFORD- BEDFORD-STUYVESANT, IN GREENS, CORONA, AREAS ACROSS THE CITY PEOPLE ARE STRUGGLING AND LIVING ON THIN MARGINS.

ARE THERE PLACES WHERE PEOPLE CAN GO IN THE CITY IF THEY FIND THEMSELVES IN THIS KIND OF SITUATION, THESE TYPES OF DIRE STRAITS, ARE THERE THINGS THAT WE CAN DO THAT MAYBE THEY DON'T KNOW ABOUT?

I THINK THEY DON'T KNOW ABOUT IT.

THE CITY DOES HAVE A RENTAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM.

SO IF YOU FALL BEHIND IN YOUR RENT THERE IS SOME HELP, BUT YOU HAVE TO MEET CERTAIN QUALIFICATIONS, FOR INSTANCE, THERE IS A PROGRAM WHERE YOU HAVE TO HAVE AT LEAST ONE CHILD AT HOME AND THEN YOU HAVE TO HAVE BEEN SUED BY YOUR LANDLORD FOR MISSED RENT.

SO AT THAT POINT IT MIGHT BE -- IT MIGHT BE TOO LATE.

YOU'RE PRETTY WELL DOWN THE ROAD AT THAT POINT.

THAT'S RIGHT, SO IT MIGHT BE TOO LATE FOR SOME PEOPLE.

ALSO ANOTHER PROBLEM WITH THE PROGRAM IS THAT YOU HAVE TO SOMETIMES TAKE OFF FROM WORK TO GO TO THE OFFICE TO APPLY.

LET'S LOSE SOME MORE MONEY SO I CAN GO TO THE OFFICE TO FIND OUT IF I CAN STAY IN MY APARTMENT.

EXACTLY.

THAT IS A PROBLEM.

BUT THERE IS SOME HELP.

THERE WAS A RENTAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM DURING THE BLOOMBERG ADMINISTRATION AS WELL CALLED ADVANTAGE AND THAT WAS DISCONTINUED IN 2011.

THERE WERE A LOT OF COMPLAINTS THAT ADVOCATES HAD ABOUT THAT PROGRAM, THERE WERE SOME ONEROUS WORK REQUIREMENTS, BUT STILL WHEN IT WAS BEING CANCELED PEOPLE WERE WORRIED.

SINCE THEN HOMELESSNESS HAS SKYROCKETED.

A LOT OF PEOPLE THINK THAT THE PROBLEM WE'RE SEEING NOW WITH RECORD NUMBERS OF PEOPLE IN SHELTERS, I MEAN, WE ARE AT 60,000 PEOPLE IN SHELTERS HERE.

LOOKING AT SOME OF YOUR RESEARCH AND YOUR REPORTING AND WRITING AND SOME OTHER THINGS, I CAME ACROSS A STATISTIC SAYING, LOOK, IT WOULD BE LESS EXPENSIVE FOR THE CITY INSTEAD OF PAYING FOR PEOPLE IN SHELTERS, TO PROVIDE ASSISTANCE FOR RENT.

DOES THAT SEEM ACCURATE TO YOU?

THAT'S RIGHT.

SO WITH THE RENTAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM IT'S A STOPGAP WHERE YOU CAN PAY SOMEONE'S MISSED PAYMENTS, THE CITY, I THINK, ESTIMATED IT COSTS AN AVERAGE ABOUT 3,000 OR SO TO DO THAT, WHEREAS TO HOUSE A FAMILY IN A SHELTER IT CAN COST $40,000 A YEAR.

SO IT'S DEFINITELY A LOT CHEAPER TO HAVE RENTAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS AS A PREVENTIVE MEASURE THAN TO HOUSE A FAMILY IN A SHELTER.

LAST QUESTION FOR YOU, AGAIN, YOU SPENT A LOT OF TIME LOOKING INTO THIS.

IS THERE ANY CAUSE FOR OPTIMISM?

DO YOU SEE ANYTHING ON THE HORIZON WHERE THE CITY IS SAYING, OKAY, WE'RE GOING TO DO SOMETHING HERE TO HELP PEOPLE, OR DOES THIS SEEM TO BE JUST AN INEXORABLE SLIDE WE'RE GOING TO SEE?

UNFORTUNATELY WITH RENTS BEING WHAT THEY ARE, I'M NOT SURE WHAT THE ANSWERS ARE.

THE CITY IS TRYING TO BUILD MORE AFFORDABLE HOUSING, BUT THEN THERE ARE QUESTIONS, AFFORDABLE TO WHO?

HOW AFFORDABLE?

AGAIN, AMY ZIMMERMAN, A FASCINATING ARTICLE, GREAT REPORTING.

WE WILL LOOK FORWARD TO HAVING YOU BACK WITH US SOMETIME SOON.

THANK YOU.

YOU TAKE CARE.

OKAY.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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