By LISA TARRICONE (July 2010)
As a legislative advocate for people with disabilities, I strongly oppose Westchester County Executive Rob Ast orino’s recent veto of legislation barring housing discrimination based on the source of an applicant’s income.
This legislation is desperately needed to protect people who rely on Social Security, Section 8 and other wai ver subsidies from discrimination when searching for affordable rental housing.
In his veto message, Mr. Astorino called the legislation “flawed,” implying that it has too many exemption s and would unfairly burden landlords.
Apparently, Mr. Astorino is unaware of the housing crisis that people with disabilities are burdened with o n a daily basis in Westchester County in their search for affordable and accessible housing.
The majority of our consumers are recipients of Social Security and Supplemental Security benefits, which places t heir income well below the county’s annual median income of $64,500 — the eligibility criterion for placement in affordable housing.
In addition, integrated affordable housing programs are typically geared for a “work force” population such as teachers, firefighters and police, to name a few, while segregated housing option s are usually established for the disability community as a “special needs” population.
Has Mr. Astorino read the 2004-08 Westchester Urban County Consortium Consolidated Plan report?
It states that over 8,000 individuals with physical and psychiatric disabilities have recorded “unmet housing n eeds” to date. The report classifies this population as “low priority,” with no allocated federal funding to address this unmet need for the fiscal years documented.
Some 10,000 units of affordable housing will need to be created by 2015 to shelter new residents and pull current residents out of substandard homes.
To date, several communities in the county are remiss in initiating housing construction to comply with the 2015 goal.
Meanwhile, people with disabilities who rely on housing waivers and monthly income checks from Social Security are living in substandard or inaccessible apartments, homeless shelters or institutions while searching for suitable housing tha t is becoming increasingly more challenging for them in Westchester County.
The protections that the source-of-income legislation provides could certainly help to mitigate this challenge.
Who is unfairly burdened now, Mr. Astorino?
The writer is director of systems advocacy for the Westchester Independent Living Center in White Plains.
Director, Systems Advocacy
Westchester Independent Living Center
White Plains, NY 10601
914.682.3926 ext 2112(office)