The urgent need for housing access vouchers 

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A recent report showed that homeless rates for those under 18 years old in the city of Rochester rose 37 percent in 2023 compared to the previous year. The Rochester City School District reports that 2,417 of its enrolled students are homeless. The word “crisis” may get thrown around a lot, but for a parent or child who has already lost their home or is in fear of losing their home, that word does not encapsulate the struggles they face every day. 

Jeremy Cooney

The stories we hear of homelessness and the risks to our community are not isolated anecdotes. Nearly half of all families in Monroe County are rent-burdened, meaning they pay more than 30 percent of their monthly income toward rent. How can we expect families to save and plan for their future if so much of their income is going toward having a roof over their heads? Housing is a most basic need and until an individual has found stability at home, it becomes impossible to build stability in the rest of their lives. With homelessness rising, and our community’s children increasingly at risk, it’s time for the state to help address this burden.

Within the state Senate majority, there is a deep understanding of the urgent need before us, and several proposals have been introduced to alleviate the housing crisis. In the long term, we can all agree that we need more high-quality, affordable housing, but fixing this issue is going to require action in both the short and long term. Kicking the can down the road just means more families with nowhere to go, and we cannot afford to wait. The answer our community needs is the Housing Access Voucher Program, legislation I have co-sponsored in the Senate. (This bill is supported by a number of community- and faith-based organizations. The current proposal is for $250 million.)

Housing access vouchers provide two key benefits: stability and choice. The idea behind the program is to create our state’s own version of the federal government’s Section 8 voucher, easing the financial burden for those at risk for homelessness. The program would cap the amount an at-risk individual puts toward rent at 30 percent of their income, bringing our communities under the rent-burdened threshold. It also provides choice to renters—both choice to decide where they want to live, and choice in how they use their income. 

This would be transformational, not just for Rochester and Monroe County, but for the entire state. Currently, there are more than 150,000 homeless New Yorkers, and an additional 175,000 at risk for eviction. Our shelters are overburdened and if we don’t act, the problem will only get worse. With housing access vouchers, we have the opportunity to help thousands of New Yorkers avoid the trauma of homelessness, and help those who have already lost their home take the first step toward permanent housing. We could also save the state millions of dollars by reducing strain on our shelters, making this a common-sense solution and a more than worthwhile investment. 

The effects of homelessness are real, wide-ranging, and lasting. From the constant stress faced by a family on the brink, to the trauma endured by losing a home, every individual involved experiences emotional and financial strain. This is especially the case for children, who are displaced and disrupted from their education. 

As a state policymaker, I believe it is our responsibility to create stability in our communities. This means building and incentivizing more affordable housing units in every locality across the state. But, while we wait for those units to be developed, housing access vouchers will keep individuals and families safely housed. With homelessness on the rise, this state budget is the opportunity to take action and provide this basic need for New Yorkers.

Jeremy Cooney represents the 56th District in the New York State Senate.

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2 thoughts on “The urgent need for housing access vouchers 

  1. I arrived in USA in 1958, my father came in 1955 looking for a better life for his family. It worked the 3 of us got their career diploma. I divorced after 32years, sold my home 2 years after and have been leaving with my SS, and 2 self employed Insurance Agent, Advertising Marketing and the equity of my home which is almost gone. 1 bed apt with 1 bedroom and the rent is $1,650 + utilities, rental ins. All I need is a voucher accepted by my landlord and the Condo Association but with the lottery issue there is very little opportunity to win! Good Luck!

  2. That’s $250 Million that the Taxpayers of New York can’t afford! If it is so important to you, write your personal check.

    Perhaps the real answer is “Don’t try to live someplace you can’t afford.” If you can’t afford Rochester, move.

    And you wonder why New Rork keeps losing population!

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