New York City is set to reopen its Section 8 housing voucher program for new applications for the first time in nearly 15 years.
Mayor Eric Adams announced the Section 8 initiative in his State of the City address, promising to issue “1,000 vouchers a month” to low-income households.
Adams said, “We are committed to helping New Yorkers stay in their homes or find a new one if needed. It is no secret that this city and this nation are facing a massive housing crisis. Sixty years of injustice and underdevelopment have brought us to the brink.”
This decision to reopen the Section 8 housing voucher program comes amid the city’s struggle with high rents, a shrinking housing supply, and a record homeless population, including newly arrived migrants and long-term residents unable to afford permanent housing.
The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), which oversees the issuance of these Section 8 vouchers, noted that almost 100,000 households currently benefit from the program.
The agency plans to contact the remaining applicants on the waiting list, prioritizing homeless individuals, victims of domestic violence, and people with disabilities.
Michael Horgan, a spokesperson for NYCHA, said, “As the largest landlord in New York City, NYCHA understands firsthand the importance of affordable housing and the need to use every available tool to connect more families with decent, safe, and sanitary places to call home.”
Section 8, formally known as the Housing Choice Voucher program, is backed by the federal government and continues indefinitely as long as recipients meet the income criteria.
In New York City, this means an income below $50,000 for an individual and $70,600 for a family of four.
Recipients pay no more than 30% of their income towards rent, with Section 8 covering the rest. Despite its benefits, enforcing the acceptance of Section 8 by landlords remains a challenge in the city.
City data highlights the vital importance of vouchers for nearly 98,900 households in New York City, despite the challenges they may face in obtaining them, as these vouchers play a crucial role in ensuring affordable housing.
The federal subsidies have the potential to assist low-income individuals who have been excluded from New York City’s housing voucher program, known as CityFHEPS.
Adams, thus far, has declined to enforce new legislation that would broaden CityFHEPS access for those who earn slightly above the current income limits and households on the brink of eviction.
This stance has prompted both the City Council and Legal Aid Society to issue threats of legal action against this obstruction.
The reopening of the Section 8 application process is eagerly awaited, but the exact timeline remains unclear. NYCHA advises those on the waiting list to keep their contact and household information updated.
Robert Desir, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society specializing in rental assistance, encourages people to apply and stay informed about their status on the waiting list.
Despite the optimism surrounding the announcement, the availability of housing for voucher recipients is not guaranteed. The NYCHA has indicated that approximately 4,500 households holding Section 8 vouchers are actively seeking apartments.
Desir suggests that the city should complement the voucher initiative with stringent measures against property owners and real estate agents who decline to accept these vouchers—a demand commonly voiced by voucher recipients and their advocates.