The near-universal standard for affordable housing requires that tenants pay no more than 30 percent of their income towards rent. In New York State, only one low-income housing program denies tenants this standard affordable housing protection -- the HIV/AIDS rental assistance program.
Low-income people living with HIV/AIDS and their families in New York City's "independent living" rental assistance program are forced to pay upwards of 70 percent of their disability income towards rent, well above what is considered affordable housing or a sustainable rent share burden. As a result, hundreds of low-income New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS are homeless and thousands more are on the brink of losing their homes. In addition, chronically ill people are forced to make difficult trade-offs between medical care, food and other essential needs in order to pay their rent each month.
Many are unable to continue this difficult balancing act and become homeless, with all the risks to their health -- and to HIV prevention efforts -- that homelessness entails. Homelessness can be a virtual a death sentence for a person living with HIV/AIDS. It jeopardizes the success of other interventions to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic, making it harder for people living with HIV/AIDS to adhere to medication and medical appointments, adopt proper nutrition, and practice safer sex and other forms of HIV prevention.
A simple solution -- and one that has broad bi-partisan support in the state legislature -- is to ensure that homeless and formerly homeless people living with HIV/AIDS pay no more than 30 percent of their income towards their rent if they already qualify for rental assistance. This report outlines why this is not only humane and just, but also a highly effective public health intervention that will produce cost-savings for taxpayers.