NEW YORK. Forty six New Yorkers have received substantial checks to mark their graduation from the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development's (HPD) Family-Self Sufficiency (FSS) Program, a locally administered federal program to assist low-income families increase their earning power. The program helps individuals receiving Section 8 housing rental assistance build marketable skills and savings, and ultimately move towards financial independence.
Several of the 46 HPD FSS graduates participated in the Career Advancement Program (CAP), a collaboration between HPD and LaGuardia Community College's Division of Adult and Continuing Education. CAP is a flexible, tailored education and career advancement program that offers HPD FSS participants the kind of training and connections necessary to obtain higher-paying jobs.
In addition to increasing earning power, FSS also helps participants begin to build savings accounts. Section 8 recipients normally pay approximately 30% of their income towards rent so, as a Section 8 recipient's income increases, their rent share also increases. However, under the FSS program, as a program participant's income increases (thanks in part to CAP's education and training) the amount of their corresponding rent increase is matched by federal funds and put into an interest bearing savings account. So while the participants are paying slightly higher rents the federal government is matching those funds in the savings program accounts. On average the size of these accounts is approximately $6,000. One recent participant earned over $34,000.
Shaun Donovan, Commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development said, "The FSS program encourages Section 8 recipients to develop their skills and find good jobs without being penalized for their hard work. The program will help many Section 8 tenants move towards financial independence and even homeownership. Expanding homeownership opportunities for New Yorkers is a fundamental objective of Mayor Bloomberg's New Housing Marketplace Plan, a $3 billion plan to create and preserve affordable housing for 200,000 New Yorkers over five years. Congratulations to this year's graduates."
Judith Gazzola, Director of the Adult Career Counseling and Resource Center at LaGuardia Community College said, "It was an inspiring occasion. It was a delight to see the impact on the recipients of receiving their checks. I wish the current participants could have been here to see the pleasure that resulted from the graduates' perseverance and hard work."
Simeon English from Brooklyn, one of the graduates, is a chef with Housing Works. The program has allowed him to improve his culinary skills and he is pursuing his GED. He said, "It's work, but now I feel that everything is possible. I will continue looking forward to more opportunities and I would like to open my own business." English catered the food for the graduation ceremony.
The Family Self-Sufficiency Program (FSS) assists households receiving Section 8 subsidies from HPD to become economically independent. The FSS Program offers participants the opportunity to accumulate substantial savings that result from earnings increases, and are available, tax free, for any purpose, to participants upon successful graduation from the program. In addition, the FSS Program provides referrals for vocational education, GED and English as a Second Language classes, continuing education courses, and employment counseling.
The Career Advancement Program (CAP) provides adult family members participating in FSS through HPD access to career planning and job training through LaGuardia Community College's Division of Adult and Continuing Education. Participants receive free assessments from job counselors who help clients identify employment goals and work with them to improve related job skills. In addition, CAP participants are assisted in job hunting and interviewing. Additional services such as child care and transportation are also included. CAP is a voluntary program and individuals who decide to join receive no penalties relating to their Section 8 or their escrow account if they do not complete classes or find a job.
For more information on the HPD FSS program call 311. HPD's FSS Program is only available to tenants receiving Section 8 issued by HPD. Tenants receiving Section 8 from the New York City Housing Authority or the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal should contact those agencies for information about their FSS programs.
HPD is the nation's largest municipal housing preservation and development agency. A major responsibility of the agency is to encourage the preservation of affordable housing through education, outreach, loan programs and enforcement of housing quality standards.
To register for classes, call 311 and ask for HPD Housing Education.