NYC’s housing advocates and lawmakers are rallying against changes to Section 8, proposed by the Obama administration. In June, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed changing the way rental subsidies for Section 8 low-income tenants are allotted. There would be a decrease of subsidies for Section 8 renters in low income neighborhoods, but an increase of subsidies in high-income neighborhoods, under the proposal. As per The Real Deal, the idea of the proposal is to encourage recipients of the vouchers to move into wealthier areas and to gain access to better jobs, schools and opportunities.
Section 8 is a federal government program which subsidizes rent payments for low-income families. It is administered by the US Department of HUD and local city administrations. In New York City, Section 8 is run by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). Under New York City’s Section 8 program, it is the responsibility of the beneficiary to find housing which will accept the voucher and pay about one-third of the rent, the program then pays the remainder of the rent directly to the landlord.
NY city and state officials criticize the new plan, saying that there simply are not enough apartments in NYC’s neighborhoods to house the 119,000 voucher holders. In May, Mayor de Blasio’s housing commissioner announced that 2.5 million people applied for 2,600 affordable apartments offered in the city since last summer. Shola Olatoye, the head of the New York City Housing Authority, and other lawmakers are joining the fight against the change, saying it will mean 55,000 lower-income households will pay more rent. The lawmakers argue that NYC should be exempt from among the 30 other metro areas affected. “The trouble with the program is that it’s effectively punishing poor people for living in poor neighborhoods,” said Ritchie Torres, a Bronx Council Member.
According to the NY Daily News, more than 290,000 New Yorkers receive a Housing Choice Voucher. For the past 40 years, the Section 8 program has been a vital source of stability for low-income Americans. Section 8 tenants are especially likely to live in poverty stricken areas. In 2015, more than 82% of Section 8 tenants lived in areas with poverty rates of 20% or more; overall, 70% of poor New Yorkers lived in such areas. Between 2000 and 2009, there was an improvement as the number of tenants using the voucher in poor neighborhoods fell from about 85% to 75%. But since 2009, the city emerged from the recession and the housing market has become so robust, that those advances have been all lost.
By: Benyamin Davidsons
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