The State Senate and Assembly included a quarter-billion dollars to fund the Housing Access Voucher Program (HAVP), which would create a new rent voucher for New Yorkers experiencing or at-risk of homelessness—including immigrants without legal status—with values pegged to fair market rent levels.

Courtesy of NYS Senate Media Services

The HAVP legislation passed both chambers’ housing committees, which are chaired by the bill’s sponsors, State Sen. Brian Kavanagh (above) and Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz.

A unique state-backed housing subsidy modeled off the federal Section 8 program moved closer to becoming reality Sunday after both chambers of the New York legislature proposed spending $250 million to jumpstart the initiative in their budget plans.

The State Senate and Assembly included a quarter-billion dollars to fund the Housing Access Voucher Program (HAVP), which would create a new rent voucher for New Yorkers experiencing or at-risk of homelessness—including immigrants without legal status—with values pegged to fair market rent levels. HAVP would function like the federal Section 8 program, with tenants covering a portion of the rent up to 30 percent of their household income.

The proposed rental assistance program also made it into the Senate’s budget plan last year, but faltered in the Assembly and did not receive support from ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo. With New York mired in dual homeless and affordable housing crises, the measure has gained steady traction in Albany. The HAVP legislation passed both chambers’ housing committees, which are chaired by the bill’s sponsors, State Sen. Brian Kavanagh and Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz, and has earned support from progressive tenant organizations as well as the real estate lobby and landlord interest groups. 

A coalition of renter groups and their advocates rallied Wednesday at the State Capitol in support of a host of housing measures, including HAVP, and say they are optimistic Gov. Kathy Hochul will also back the bill. Hochul did not include HAVP in her executive budget plan and her office declined to comment on the specific proposal Friday.

“Governor Hochul’s executive budget includes bold initiatives to embrace this once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in our future, and we look forward to continuing to work with the legislature to finalize a budget that serves all New Yorkers,” Hochul’s spokesperson Avi Small said in a statement.

Legal Aid Society staff attorney Ellen Davidson said the inclusion of the subsidy in the one-house budget was an “extraordinarily positive” step toward addressing the statewide homelessness crisis and potentially relieving a crushing rent burden for thousands of New Yorkers. Rents are increasing for low-income New Yorkers—many of whom are already paying more than half their income on housing—according to data compiled by the real estate site StreetEasy. 

The subsidy would allow people at risk of eviction to pay their rent consistently and remain in place, Davidson said. The state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) and nearly two-year eviction protections provided only a temporary reprieve.

“I think it’s clear that we need the Housing Access Voucher Program to continue to recover from COVID,” Davidson said. “We’re still dealing with people who have not recovered their income and have only been able to remain in their homes because of ERAP and what’s going on in housing court, but eventually their time will run out.”

Low-income New Yorkers experiencing or at-risk of homelessness already have access to a patchwork of rent subsidies funded by the city and state, but HAVP supporters said the proposed program would reach far more people, including immigrants without legal status and households working minimum-wage jobs. Half of HAVP funding would cover vouchers for New Yorkers experiencing homelessness, while the rest would go to low-income renters facing “imminent loss of housing,” with formerly homeless tenants receiving priority. 

Like Section 8, the program would be administered by local housing agencies—in New York City, that means the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and NYCHA. New Yorkers would qualify for the voucher if they earn less than 50 percent of Area Median Income ($41,800 for an individual and $59,650 for a family of four). They would maintain the voucher until 30 percent of their income equals the total rent. 

About 92,000 people statewide lack a permanent address and in January, more than 60,000 people spent time in New York City homeless shelters, according to the most recent data released by city agencies and tracked by City Limits. About 47,000 people stay in Department of Homeless Services shelters each night.

Opposition to the rent subsidy proposal comes down to spending. The amount of money needed to fund the program would only increase as households use the vouchers to cover rents that tend to rise annually, but Kavanagh said savings on shelters, medical treatment and other expenses related to housing instability and homelessness would more than offset the cost to the state. He said he eventually wants the program to have a $1 billion annual budget.  

“We talk about managing homelessness, but we haven’t talked about ending it in a long time,” he said. “We as a society ought to have the resources so that no one is lacking housing because of inability to pay. This program could really be part of that.” 

11 thoughts on “NY Lawmakers Propose $250M to Launch Section 8-Style Rent Subsidy

  1. This sounds great at face value but why not address the real issue. Raise wages!! Everyone struggles because wages are stagnant and have not kept up with the cost of living in NYC. Programs like these come on the backs of the middle class, stop the madness. If wages increased then you would not need programs like these as much.

  2. Why are we subsidizing/paying rents for illegals? We have vets in the streets who served our country proudly. We have mothers and children abandoned by their spouses/fathers, elderly whose fixed incomes no longer cover not only the rent but skyrocketing costs of food, utilities, clothing et al.. and these are taxpayers US citizens! I do not consent to dole out my hard earned – hear that libs – hard earned – monies for anyone else.

  3. As a city employee who’s been looking for affordable housing for 15 years. Constantly applying on the lists, I’ve only been contacted twice. Once 7 years ago. I turned in my paperwork at some obscure address in Queens for a a place in brooklyn and heard nothing back. Then in October, I applied in the Bronx where it would take me 2 hours or more to get to my job inland they responded in 1 month. Insane. This is why many of my colleagues are just moving out of state. Why do we have to do this if we serve this city.
    I agree with the first comment. It the salaries. It never keeps up with the cost of living. Affordable housing is affordable for whom. Not for single parent if one. It’s for two income families or single persons with the appropriate income. Does the city have any idea of how many employees live with extended families and can’t afford the rents. Let’s not forget that rents rose by 30% after the moratorium, making the opportunity to afford rent even more impossible. Some of use want to be able to afford to pay rent and feed our families with out pay checks and not rely on assistance, so that those resources can go to those who need it most.
    And like the first commentator says at face value this looks and sounds good but I question if these funds will really go to those who need it.
    I work in an educational institution where I assist many people who live in shelters and they are telling me that the new increased section 8 voucher is only being accepted mainly on the Bronx. If they do find a place to live it’s usually a room,
    Yes they are thankful for a space to live but room living is not acceptable for adults. What’s the difference from living in a room and the shelter. Minus the curfew it’s not how adults choose to live. It’s great for a young person starting out but I’m life this is crazy.
    We need to look at all these policies and look deeper into these so called success stories of placing people in housing. It’s like put people anywhere and say yeah we gave them a home.

  4. As a city employee who’s been looking for affordable housing for 15 years. Constantly applying on the lists, I’ve only been contacted twice. Once 7 years ago. I turned in my paperwork at some obscure address in Queens for a a place in brooklyn and heard nothing back. Then in October, I applied in the Bronx where it would take me 2 hours or more to get to my job in brooklyn. They responded in 1 month. Insane.

    This is why many of my colleagues are just moving out of state. Why do we have to do this if we serve this city.

    I agree with the first commentator, it’s the salaries. It never keeps up with the cost of living. Affordable housing is affordable for whom. Not for single parent of one. It’s for two income families or single persons with the appropriate income. Does the city have any idea of how many employees live with extended families and can’t afford the rents. Let’s not forget that rents rose by 30% after the moratorium, making the opportunity to afford rent even more impossible. Some of us want to be able to afford to pay rent and feed our families with our pay checks and not rely on assistance, so that those resources can go to those who need it most.
    And like the first commentator says at face value this looks and sounds good but I question if these funds will really go to those who need it.
    I work in an educational institution where I assist many people who live in shelters and they are telling me that the new increased section 8 voucher is only being accepted mainly in the Bronx. If they do find a place to live it’s usually a room in Queens. The other boroughs rents are to expense.
    Yes they are thankful for a space to live but room living is not acceptable for adults. What’s the difference from living in a room and the shelter. Minus the curfew it’s not how adults choose to live. It’s great for a young person starting out but In an adult life this is crazy.
    We need to look at all these policies and look deeper into these so called success stories of placing people in housing. It’s like put people anywhere and say yeah we gave them a home.

    • You sound like a hard working guy. Let me ask you a question? Why didn’t you save up over all this time to put a down payment on a home or condo somewhere in NYC or in the suburbs. I bought a 1-family house in the early 1990s and while owning a house is not cheap I control my own living space, and not chased around by NYC landlords my entire life. My parents bought a house in the early 1960s for the same reasons.

      Good luck!

  5. Just as someone else stated….fix the problem and increase wage pay. Fix the Section 8 program as well. Why create a similar program when there are so many with the original? It’s extremely hard to find someone willing to take people on Section 8 as it is and once you do find something it’s not suitable for living or landlords are slumlords. I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.

    • Section-8 renters are the worst of the worst and have a reputation for disruptive and criminal activity. No sane landlord wants them, this proposed HAVP voucher program will also be used by worst of the worst.

  6. Sounds like a good start but someone needs to help the middle class who carry the burden for everyone it seems. Affordable is a crazy term. The person who affirdable for whom is right on spot! Many programs help the very poor… I feel due then. But the reason Mitchell lama helped was because it was the middle people. The prob was landlords being able to buy out of the program after benefiting fir years! Help before the middle cksss is just a dream in nyc and there are only two classes left. Guess How that will go re politics?

  7. I understand where all the issue has arise since 2011 issue or burden has given people to find stability in a place that’s livable look how long it to nycha to start repairing issue that has surpassed its living conditions then now with the COVID issue it put a stand still on everyone jobs gone major health issues financial mayor problems now how can people recover from this. We need a place to call home not a place to go to at night . Their are rodents issue still affecting areas. I live in a place where you heard them through the walls and it’s a six floor dueling. It’s been like this for years my mothers apartment. I need help to pay for the rent there I’m praying for something better and livable

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