As the budget deadline nears, the fate of a widely supported housing voucher program rests in Hochul’s hands

Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York state lawmakers are expected to decide by midnight whether to create a $250 million rental assistance program that proponents said will benefit 40,000 to 50,000 homeless individuals and families and those living on Am most at risk of losing their homes would provide long-term shelter.

Behind the rental subsidy plan are interested landlords, the real estate lobby and tenants’ associations – a rare unity. It also has the support of lawmakers, who are deferring funding in its multi-billion dollar spending plans.

“The people who don’t like it are the tax conservatives,” said Judith Goldiner, who heads the civil rights reform division at the Legal Aid Society, which has championed the program. “But from a political point of view, I don’t think anyone has concerns.”

However, Hochul did not include the $250 million proposal in her budget plan unveiled in January, and she has not publicly weighed whether to support it. The governor and lawmakers are in the closing hours of budget negotiations, and lawmakers are expected to vote on the state’s spending plan by midnight.

In upstate New York, more than 90,000 people are homeless, according to Senator Brian Kavanagh, a sponsor of the housing assistance initiative known as the Housing Access Voucher Program (HAVP). The Coalition for the Homeless said the number of homeless individuals and families in New York City has reached “the highest level since the Great Depression of the 1930s.”

The proposed voucher program, modeled after the Federal Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, would help individuals and families who cannot afford to pay their rent. Under the plan, people eligible for vouchers would spend no more than 30% of their income on housing. The state takes care of the rest of the payments.

In a significant expansion beyond voucher programs that exist elsewhere — including New York City — the program would also be available to undocumented New Yorkers, who are often excluded from government assistance programs.

If passed, half of the $250 million would be reserved for homeless New Yorkers and the other half would help those at risk of eviction.

The purpose of the program is to create a long-term permanent housing benefit to keep those who cannot afford their rent housed, Kavanagh said. The state previously had programs to help New Yorkers with rent problems, but they ended when funding dried up.

“It’s always better to get someone out of homelessness into permanent housing, but we don’t want that to be a short-term solution,” said Kavanagh, who represents parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn. “We don’t want people to go into an apartment and two years later become homeless.”

In the long run, Kavanagh and Goldiner said, the rent subsidy program would reduce the amount of taxpayer money the state and New York City spend on the shelter system to accommodate homeless families and individuals.

According to Kavanagh, the state of New York City reimburses $2 billion in housing costs each year.

“So permanent housing is becoming cheaper. It will be healthier and more stable,” he said.

Landlord associations support the program because they can count on steady income.

Valentina Gojcaj, who manages more than 200 apartments for small real estate owners in New York City, said one of the attractive features of the program is its portability, allowing tenants to choose where they want to live and as circumstances in their lives change to change.

“If a renter who lives in the five boroughs wants to move to Westchester County, or they want to go to Dutchess or some other job opportunity, or they’re an older person who wants to follow family, they can do that .” said Gojcaj.

Recipients of New York City’s housing voucher program, known as CityFHEPS, cannot use the vouchers to rent an apartment or house outside of the city.

The measure was first introduced by Kavanagh in 2020 and again in 2021 under Governor Andrew Cuomo. Kavanagh said new leadership in Albany could mean this will be the year it becomes law.

“I think that’s doable,” Kavanagh said. “And that’s what I think and hope we’re going to do this week.”

https://gothamist.com/news/as-budget-deadline-looms-fate-of-a-widely-supported-housing-voucher-program-is-in-hochuls-hands As the budget deadline nears, the fate of a widely supported housing voucher program rests in Hochul’s hands

Ari Notis

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