Good morning Chairman Mack and members of the committee; I thank, you for inviting we to testify here today and wish to especially thank Senator D'Amato. My name is Judith Smith. I am a resident of Frederick Douglas Houses on Manhattan's Upper West Side in New York City and am a board member of the New York State Tenants & Neighbors Coalition. I work part-time at the New York City Technical College and am studying full-time for a Bachelors in Technology in Graphic Arts Production Management. I am a single parent of three children. My 19 year old daughter also works and studies full-time and helps pay our family's rent.
I have always lived in public housing and Douglas Houses has been my home since 1979 .I love my Community, my neighbors and my home. We pay the housing authority $495 for a two bedroom apartment. Private market two-bedroom apartments in my neighborhood easily rent for $1,500 a month. You can imagine what could happen if the housing authority were deregulated or Congress eliminated the Brooke Amendment. I could easily lose my home. Thank you for hearing the concerns of tenants last year and preserving the Brooke Amendment in this year's bill. Please do not establish a minimum rent system. For those families with no income at all, even $25 a month is a lot of money and once a minimum is set there will be a repeated temptation to raise it.
Last year, the House of Representatives proposed total deregulation of 300 housing authorities including New York City's. This year the House has a new deregulation block grant scheme. Our Mayor and our housing authority have publicly expressed support for deregulation. We oppose it.
My home is located on prime Manhattan real estate. Under a deregulation scheme, my home would be a prime target for demolition aud redevelopment as high-income housing or for replacement of low income people with middle or upper income tenants. Thank you for saying no to total deregulation. Please stand firm on this position.
Once again the House is proposing 'self-sufficiency contracts.' The House wants tenants to "graduate" from public housing. I plan to graduate from college so I can move on and up, but time limits in public housing will force people to "graduate" to the street. Besides, why should we be forced to leave our neighborhoods and friends and forced to uproot our children from their schools? I am pleased that S.462 rejects time limits.
I recently met a public housing tenant from upstate New York who is one of two elected public housing authority commissioners in her city. In fact under state law, every housing authority in New York, except New York City's, must allow tenants to elect two commissioners. This right should be extended to all public housing tenants in the country. Your bill mandates one elected commissioner. That is a good start, but why not two? Your bill exempts housing authorities with full-time paid commissioners--once again New York City tenants would be unable to vote.
Last year when similar legislation was malking its way through Washington, numerous public
housing tenants in New York City had to meet in stairwells and courtyards to inform themselves
and their neighbors about the dangers of the proposed legislation. The New York City Housing
Authority has routinely denied access to community rooms for meetings and accused tenants and
advocates of spreading falsehoods and rumors about pending legislation. Public housing
authorities must not be allowed to hide information from their residents or retaliate against those
who are trying to educate themselves and their neighbors. My neighbors and I can not be
expected to comment on important decisions being made by our housing authority if we are kept
in the dark until the last moment. Those of us who have followed last year's legislation have
learned a great deal about what's at stake and will be better prepared to comment on any plan that
the New York City Housing Authority might submit to HUD in the future. It is crucial that we
get funding for resident activities at the level recommended in your bill and that the moneys not
be controlled by public housing authorities as in H.R. 2.
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