Domestic Violence and Housing
Carol Corden, Executive Director, New Destiny Housing
Domestic violence survivors in shelter must find permanent housing for their families. But the next step after shelter is challenging. Throughout New York State, decent affordable housing is difficult to find and support services for survivors in permanent housing are inadequate.
Residents of New York State’s domestic violence shelter system have diverse needs. Some require a temporary sanctuary before moving on with their lives. Others need continuing support as they move toward self-sufficiency. For still others, prolonged or severe abuse may have caused debilitating problems requiring long-term support services. How can the diverse housing needs of domestic violence survivors best be met?
Promising models exist for housing survivors while promoting and supporting long-term stability and safety.
Some Capital Funding Sources for Semi-Perm and Permanent Housing
NYS Homeless Housing Assistance Program: $30MM available annually; priority to homeless domestic violence survivors; administered by Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance
NYS Low-Income Housing Tax Credits: annual RFP; $220,000/unit max; administered by Homes and Community Renewal
NYS Housing Trust Fund: annual RFP; $2MM max per project; administered by Homes and Community Renewal
NYS Historic Tax Credits: administered by the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation
HUD Supportive Housing Program: up to $400,000; project must support locality’s Continuum of Care Plan
Federal Home Loan Bank of New York Affordable Housing Program: RFPs twice a year; $20,000/unit max; developer must partner with a member bank
Some New York State domestic violence service providers have developed semi-perm housing with residential services that serves as a bridge between shelter and permanent housing. The YWCA of Niagara operates Carolyn’s House, a renovated building that provides transitional housing and services for two years to nineteen homeless women (many of whom are domestic violence survivors) and their children. Casa Sandra, operated by VIP in New York City, houses 15 families coming directly from domestic violence shelters in apartments with on-site services for up to five years. Staff members in both programs help residents achieve their long-term goals by providing domestic violence counseling, children’s services, case management, job readiness, and workshops on financial planning.
Marcello Manor in New York City, operated by New Destiny Housing, provides permanent housing with on-site services for survivors leaving the shelter system. This 38-apartment project has a 50% set-aside for domestic violence survivors; the remaining apartments are for low-income households. The mixed population model is designed to be non-stigmatizing: the project looks like other apartment buildings on the block. Voluntary services—including financial literacy, case management, and job readiness—are tailored to the needs of domestic violence survivors but are available to everyone in the building.
Development of these projects required multiple public funding sources (e.g., NYS’s Homeless Housing Assistance Program (HHAP), low-income housing tax credits from the State, and HUD’s Supportive Housing Program) as well as private grants (see inset).
A third model, nonresidential services, supports survivors leaving shelter who find apartments. Sanctuary for Families recently completed a pilot in New York City called “My Door,” which provided domestic violence counseling and workforce development to survivors in permanent housing. “My Door” recognized that women are ready to move on from shelter, but that finding themselves on their own in a new community without support is often daunting. It also responded to the need for finding living- wage jobs to cover rent after short-term rental subsidies end.
These models provide valuable lessons in how to break the cycle of violence. However, the barriers to replicating them involve not only scarce capital and operating funding but also the marginalization of domestic violence survivors as a group. The State’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance and Homes and Community Renewal are among the only public agencies that recognize low-income homeless domestic violence survivors as a priority population for housing and services. The budget for Supportive Housing for Families and Young Adults (SHFYA), which supports services for families in permanent housing, has been cut in half, and no dedicated funding exists for residential services for domestic violence survivors in permanent housing. Finally, scarce long-term rental subsidies statewide creates a disincentive to developers interested in providing service-enriched permanent housing for low-income survivors.
Finding affordable, safe housing remains a top issue for women and children using the New York State domestic violence shelter system. More capital and service funding must be secured and it is vital that domestic violence survivors are not excluded from programs like NY/NY III (the New York State/New York City agreement to develop supportive housing for homeless households) and Continuum of Care plans (locally-developed strategies for addressing the housing and service needs of the homeless that are required to apply for HUD funding).
Permanent housing combined with services is key to keeping survivors safe from further abuse. Without it, too many women are forced to make choices that perpetuate domestic violence, poverty, and instability.