By Mariana Calvo, Ariva Census Captain
2020 is a year defined by great needs and by great obstacles. In the post-pandemic months and even years to come, it’s likely that New York City will face significant economic challenges, especially in the realms of homelessness and joblessness. To address these challenges, government programs like affordable housing will be critical. To meet the demand for more affordable housing, federal and local governments are going to need data — data that’s made possible by the census.
Every 10 years, the Census Bureau compiles housing statistics that illustrate the size, age, and type of American homes, along with home values, rents, and mortgages. After this information is compiled, it’s used by all levels of government — from local to state to federal — to determine how many people qualify for affordable housing, how many units they will need to build, and how many subsidies they will need to issue. This data is also used to determine the kinds of supplemental programs that are needed to give vulnerable populations better access to affordable housing programs, like Ready to Rent. (1)
To address the challenges of homelessness and joblessness, government tools like affordable housing will be critical in the next decade.
Ready to Rent is a program funded by the New York City Council in partnership with Ariva (2) that gives low-income New Yorkers access to financial counselors who assist them with their affordable housing applications. To strengthen their applications, Ariva’s financial counselors work with candidates to review their credit history, support them in calculating their income, and create budgets that include rent, moving costs, and other housing-related expenses.
“Ready to Rent empowers our New York community in their housing journey by using financial counseling to give residents better access and preparation to the housing lottery,” says Andrew Erway, one of Ariva’s financial counselors.
And the results have been tremendous — starting with Ariva’s pilot program2 conducted from January to November of 2015 with the assistance of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs. Out of the 341 people who received financial counseling, a total of 141 had their affordable housing applications approved when they otherwise would not have.
Positive outcomes like the ones seen in 2015 have continued since that pilot was used to design the Ready to Rent program that began full operations in 2017. Unfortunately, the life-changing impacts Ready to Rent has had city-wide could become a relic of the past. Funded only until July of 2020, Ready to Rent is at risk of becoming yet another casualty of the COVID-19 crisis as the City Council decides whether or not to continue supporting it.
As New York City nears the end of its battle against COVID-19, city-wide budget cuts may become part of the “new normal.” It’s highly likely that those cuts will affect housing, education, and health programs, the very social programs that are solutions to the joblessness and homelessness problems unleashed by the coronavirus. They are also problems that will persist and define the following decade — the very same decade laid out by the 2020 Census.
At a time when so many are at risk of losing their jobs and their homes, we want to make sure that everyone has access to housing they can afford. Let’s show our New York City Council why housing programs like Ready to Rent are so important, and why they must continue to support them.
To make sure that Ready to Rent can operate beyond 2020, Ariva asks all of our community members to fill out the Census today.