The governor’s State of the State address will include proposals to discourage landlords—and insurance companies—from business practices rooted in anti-voucher bias. 

Gov. Kathy Hochul

Darren McGee- Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

Gov. Kathy Hochul at a housing-related announcement in 2022.

In a state like New York where demand for affordable housing far outstrips supply—particularly among the lowest income households—rental vouchers can offer a lifeline.

With a voucher, a family can rent an apartment they wouldn’t be able to afford on their own, contributing part of their income while a government entity covers the balance.

Yet it is common for voucher holders to face discrimination from landlords and brokers while hunting for apartments. Anti-voucher bias, though illegal, is the most frequent form of housing discrimination in New York City, according to annual reports by the New York City Human Rights Commission. 

To combat this issue, Gov. Kathy Hochul is planning to announce a new enforcement unit as part of her State of the State Address Tuesday, City Limits has learned—one of roughly a dozen expected housing-related announcements.  

The unit, instituted by executive action, will be a joint effort between the New York State Division of Human Rights and Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) to root out discrimination against federal Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher holders, including both prospective renters and homeowners. 

“Housing discrimination doesn’t just limit New Yorkers’ housing options and drive up costs—it violates our laws,” the governor said in a statement. 

Details around the so-called Early Intervention Unit are still being hammered out, according to Hochul’s office. However, early interventions typically involve contacting brokers and landlords as soon as a complaint is lodged and seeking to secure housing for voucher holders quickly without the need for protracted litigation. 

“Housing is a basic human right and HCR is committed to fighting housing discrimination and ensuring that all New Yorkers, regardless of income or source of income, have the opportunity to live in the communities they choose,” HCR Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said in a statement commending Hochul’s new initiative.

Also on Tuesday, the governor is expected to propose legislation that would make it illegal for insurance carriers to ask about—or consider—tenants’ source of income when deciding whether to issue or renew a policy for a residential property. 

Considering whether a property has affordable units or receives government funding would also be off the table, and providers would be barred from increasing premiums based on any of these factors. 

The proposal comes as owners of affordable housing face rising premiums. In a 2022 report, HCR reviewed insurance costs for 152 properties in its portfolio, with 20,000 units between them. The properties saw an average increase in premiums of 43 percent between 2019 and 2021. 

High insurance premiums can have downstream effects, the governor’s office noted, draining finances that might otherwise fund building repairs and maintenance. 

“My administration is cracking down on discrimination against Section 8 recipients and affordable housing providers to make sure that all New Yorkers have a choice when it comes to finding safe, decent homes that they can afford,” Hochul stated. 

There are currently about 240,000 Section 8 voucher holders with leases in New York, according to a national dashboard. 

The governor will make her State of the State address at 1 p.m. Tuesday in the Assembly Chamber in Albany. Last year’s address kicked off with a proposal to impose statewide housing development targets that ultimately fizzled. 

A proposed state rental subsidy modeled after Section 8—with crossover support among tenants and landlords—also failed to advance last year. 

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