Weekly Round-Up September 8th, 2014

Five-Borough, Ten-year plan to Create More Affordable Housing:

  • Mayor Bill de Blasio recently released a Five-Borough, Ten-year plan, which aims at creating or preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing. Now, affordable housing units could become a mandatory part of any new real estate development project that requires a zoning change or City Planning Commission approval. This new mandate would require a change in the zoning laws of New York City.
  • In a statement made on Friday, September 5 at a breakfast at the Center for New York City Law at New York Law School, Carl Weisbrod, chairman of the City Planning Commission, said that developers will not be able to “build one unit unless [they] build [their] share of affordable housing.” He added, “There will be a minimum that the developer has to do without subsidy.”
  • The requirements would apply to new development projects requiring zoning changes, and apartment building projects of 6 or more stories requiring City Planning Commission approval.
  • The Mayor’s mission is to provide economic stability to families of varying incomes and to ensure that everyone has a “safe” and “decent” home. He would also like to preserve affordable housing in all communities, and help families to hold onto rent-regulated apartments, and allow seniors to continue living in neighborhoods where the rents are becoming too costly for them to afford.
  • To read more about the mission, goals, and implementation of the new plan, click here and here. (New York Times).  To see a video of the breakfast, click here.  (CityLand)

Mobile Child Support Program:

  • In 2009, Kai Patterson founded Project Child Support to assist custodial parents in obtaining child support owed to them and non-custodial parents in avoiding accumulating more child support debt. Last week, Project Child Support unveiled its newest form of assistance: the mobile child support van. The van, painted teal and pink, parks outside family courthouses in New York and New Jersey.  Staff members provide informational flyers and speak to parents as they exit the courthouses.
  • The Project offers legal assistance to parents trying to retrieve child support payments owed to them, and also assists in finding non-custodial parents who have fled the jurisdiction or cannot be located. For parents who owe back child support, the Program provides services to calculate more affordable payment plan options. (ABC News)

Using Gambling to Help Low-Income Families Save:

  • Credit Unions and non-profits are using the allure of the lottery to encourage low-income families to save money.  The financial institutions offer prize-linked savings accounts, which treat every deposit as if it were a lottery ticket to win money or prizes. There is no risk to participants; whatever they save is theirs.
  • Last year the non-profit, Doorways to Dream, ran a program in New York where participants could deposit their federal tax refund checks and then be entered in a raffle. Some groups, such as Save To Win, offer prize-based certificates of deposit requiring participants to deposit as little as $25 to qualify. While the participants in these types of accounts can withdraw money to buy holiday presents or for essentials, the program has helped participating low-income families to save money, budget and forecast. (New York Times)

New York City Immigrant Public Defender System:

  • Last year, a pilot program was launched to provide counsel for detained adult immigrants who are facing deportation. The pilot program took on about 190 cases, but the New York City Council recently approved $4.9 million to fully fund the program. This money is to be used for the fiscal year that began on July 1. The program, the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project, is now expected to take on approximately 900 cases.
  • Immigration court is unlike criminal court in that a respondent in immigration court is not guaranteed the right to counsel. This is the case although deportation can disrupt individuals’ and families’ lives in unimaginable ways.
  • The pilot program provides free legal representation for those whose household incomes do not exceed 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines.
  • Currently, The Bronx Defenders, Brooklyn Defender Services, and the Legal Aid Society are working with detainees to help them build stronger cases against deportation. If they are deported, the attorneys help them to fully understand what that means and any consequences that may be attached.
  • This program is the first of its kind in the nation. Proponents remarked that the program “is helping address the backlogs and delays that result when immigrants without attorneys try to make their way through the system.” To read more about this, click here. (AP/ABC News)