Today’s Read: Swapping Shelters for Rent Subsidies

Decades of research have shown that housing is the solution to homelessness, but the City and State have struggled to move people out of shelters and keep them stably housed. The rapidly dwindling supply of affordable housing has resulted in near-record numbers of New Yorkers languishing in shelters, unable to find an apartment within their budget or facing illegal discrimination from landlords who refuse to accept rent subsidies. Thousands more teeter on the brink of homelessness because wages have not kept pace with rents.

A new proposal from State Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi, called Home Stability Support, would offer critical assistance to tens of thousands of New Yorkers statewide who need help making ends meet. The plan would streamline existing rental subsidies and narrow the gap between the currently inadequate public assistance shelter allowance and actual fair market rents.

Home Stability Support would be both compassionate and cost-effective by helping people move from costly shelters to affordable housing, and preventing others from experiencing the trauma of homelessness in the first place. As the New York Daily News reports, the proposal would in fact save taxpayer dollars:

“It’s going to cost a lot but you drop significantly what we’re spending on the statewide and city shelter systems by reducing the trend of homelessness so you’re ultimately saving millions of dollars,” Hevesi said.

In New York City, the plan would cost $11,224 per year for a household of three, compared to $38,460 for a family living in the shelter system, Hevesi said.

Under the plan, a mishmash of state and local rent subsidies that he says are no longer effective would be replaced with a single state program for families and individuals facing eviction, homelessness, or loss of housing due to domestic violence or other dangerous conditions.

Currently, he said, there are more than 80,000 households on the brink of homelessness that would be eligible if the program is enacted by the Legislature and governor next year.