New York Voucher Programs Need Immediate Reform

(New York, NY) —  In light of a recent lawsuit by Housing Rights Initiative alleging source of income discrimination against Section 8 voucher holders, the Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP) is calling for city, state and federal leaders to streamline and improve the voucher program, and for increased enforcement against brokers and housing providers who engage in source of income discrimination. 

“One thing everyone can agree on is the system doesn’t work. Tenants, housing providers, and elected officials all see the failings of the current voucher system,” said Jay Martin, executive director of CHIP. “We have been working directly with elected officials to try and provide housing for voucher holders during the pandemic and frankly, the bureaucracy is infuriating. A seamless voucher system is the pathway to truly affordable housing for low-income families, but the government tends to get in the way.”

The current patchwork of programs is a bureaucratic nightmare. It is confusing, underfunded, and enforcement is lacking. Additionally, city, state and federal systems have different requirements and regulations, creating further confusion and an administrative nightmare for housing providers. Some voucher programs have even been found to be improper because of the restrictions they place on owners. The allegations made in the recent lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court Southern District of New York, demonstrate that inefficiencies in the voucher system fail tenants in need.

“There must be no tolerance for income discrimination. The only way to truly eliminate it is to ensure the voucher program is fully-funded, and streamline verification processes so that a voucher holder is on the same level as a renter who can afford the full rent,” Martin said.  

The biggest hurdle to placing voucher holders in permanent housing is still the economics. In many cases, the vouchers under city programs do not pay enough to secure adequate housing. CHIP supports City Council’s Intro 146 of 2018, sponsored by Stephen Levin, which would increase the voucher amount. We also support the Home Stability Support bill, proposed by Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi and State Senator Liz Krueger, which would increase voucher options. 

“Both of these bills are great steps towards making the voucher system better. While we support a larger effort to tackle this issue, it should not delay the passage of these programs, which will help thousands of tenants immediately,” Martin said.  

CHIP also calls on city and state officials to provide more counseling and educational resources for tenants with vouchers and training for housing providers.