Sunset residents celebrate five-year extension of Section 8

Five more years!

Residents of a group of project-based Section 8 buildings in Sunset Park celebrated the five-year extension on their contracts, which will keep thousands of tenants in affordable housing. According to the New York City Housing Authority, Section 8 provides assistance to eligible low and moderate-income families to rent housing in the private market.

The party, held outside Grace Baptist Church, 5224 Sixth Avenue, on Thursday, August 20, included, food, music, dancing and appearances by excited tenants and elected officials. Neighbors Helping Neighbors (NHN), a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-certified counseling agency based in Sunset whose mission is to empower low and moderate-income Brooklyn residents to secure quality housing, hosted the event.

“We want to celebrate with the tenants,” said VISTA Organizer for NHN Nehemiah Bey. “Thousands of families would’ve been displaced. This is a win for the tenants and a win for the community so it doesn’t really matter if you live in the building, it’s a good day.”

Bey also said local businesses will benefit the change. “The community benefits as a whole, because the community supports business,” he said. “When market rates of rent go up exponentially, the rents of businesses go up as well. So the businesses supported by residents disappear as well as residents that displaced if the program is not continued.”

Besides the party, NHN also awarded those who volunteered their time to ensure that the tenants weren’t shut out. “We want to recognize tenants that went the extra mile, that were leaders in making this happen,” said Bey.

The news of the extension was revealed during a meeting so highly attended, it was standing room only. “Nydia Velazquez was very instrumental in the extension as well as Councilmember Carlos Menchaca,” recalled Bey.

Menchaca attended the celebration and shared his thoughts. “This is about protecting the fabric beyond the physical structure of the apartments. This is about protecting families,” he told The Home Reporter.

NHN also received a lot of credit from the councilmember. “They’re the heart and core. When you think about who is pumping energy every day, it’s the NHN,” he said.

“It was the power of tenants getting together because elected officials only listen to the voices they can hear,” added Bey. “If there’s no voice, there’s no response.”

Tenants were happy to celebrate. “It’s good for the community and for senior citizens,” said resident Walter Wolfe. “We’re happy because we would have had no place to go. We’ve been living here our whole life. We’ve raised our families here.

Despite the celebration, fears still loom regarding what will happen in five years. “Gentrification is tied to development,” said Bey. “Our fear is what happens at Industry City. Landlords are businesspeople. Right now might not be the most opportune time to opt out of the [Section 8] program. But it might be in five years when Industry City is up and running.”

“The fight begins now for the next five years and today we start that fight with celebration,” said Menchaca.”

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