Crain’s NY: Home Stability Support makes sense for taxpayers, landlords and homeless families


March 10, 2020

Lawmakers across New York City and state are grasping for the most effective solutions to end the homelessness crisis, while also saving taxpayer dollars long-term.

In the city especially, the cost of rent is skyrocketing and incomes are stagnant. Thousands of homeless families are languishing in shelters, commercial hotels, or doubled up in apartments. Landlords, tenants, and housing advocates all agree that the best option to reduce the 70% of shelter residents who are families with children lies in a transformative piece of legislation in Albany called, Home Stability Support.

The bill would offer a state-wide rent subsidy for households receiving public assistance and facing eviction, homelessness, or loss of housing due to domestic violence or hazardous conditions. If passed, it would serve as a critical bridge for the gap between current subsidies and the cost of New York’s sky-high rents.

In the city, rental prices are increasing at a much faster rate than the median income and affordable housing options are becoming scarcer all the time. In 2017, the vacancy rate for apartments with rents between $800 and $999 was just 2.09% and even lower for apartments with rents below $800 at just 1.15%.

Currently, the state provides a  shelter allowance for families who receive public assistance, but the most a family of three can get is less than $400. For the average shelter resident, who is a single mother of two, finding a safe place to live in New York City on less than a $400 subsidy is next to impossible.

By comparison, the legislation would dedicate state funding for up to 85% of the Fair Market Rent in the five boroughs, and would allow local municipalities to make up the remaining amount. The goal of the proposal is to phase out other subsidies currently in place, which are insufficient to meet the cost of housing.

The family housing subsidy is also smart fiscal policy. New York City currently pays an average of $38,460 to house a family of three in a shelter, but a voucher under the legislation for that same family would only cost an average of $11,224 — less than a third of the cost.

A rental subsidy that actually reflects the cost of housing would be a win for landlords, too, who would be guaranteed rental income from their tenants.

In addition to the mounting financial cost of keeping families in shelters and commercial hotels, there is also tremendous human cost. Families entering shelter are often fleeing domestic violence or other dangerous conditions. Losing a place to live and entering shelter exacerbates trauma and devastates families, and especially young children.

Without a consistent roof overhead, or room to play and study, students are more likely to drop out of school, grapple with mental health issues, and face homelssness as adults. The one in 10 New York City school students experiencing homlessness regularly have to travel great distances across the city to get to their school, and absenteeism rates spike as a result. Through no fault of their own, children get trapped in the vicious cycle of homelessness without ever getting an opportunity to reach their full potential.

If a family can maintain their housing during a crisis and be near their community with sufficient support networks, the faster they can bounce back. The more we’re able to prevent instability before it starts, the more families we can spare from that trauma and the more taxpayers will save in the long run.

Home Stability Support offers the state a viable opportunity to combat the growing crisis of family homelssness and provide thousands of at-risk families with the resources they need to stay on the path to long-term stability and well-being.The choice is clear. It makes clear economic sense — and it’s simply the right thing to do for New York children and families.

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