All across the state, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the true extent of housing insecurity and made it even more challenging for struggling New Yorkers to pay rent.
The Hudson Valley continues to face intense housing pressures and rapid price escalations. Change has already come to many local communities – much of it with the potential to cause widespread displacement. How local government manages that change and protects our most vulnerable community members should remain top of mind as we enter 2022.
On a local level, we have continued to see the number of those experiencing homelessness rise over recent years, and the need for supportive services is greater than ever throughout the region.
Consider the most recent (pre-pandemic) data from non-profit Hudson River Housing. Between 2015 and 2019, the rate of homelessness grew by 42% in Dutchess County. The rate of homelessness is much higher in Dutchess County than in other parts of New York (excluding NYC) and slightly higher than the national rate of homelessness. What can be done? Funding is on the way, and you need to know how to access it. Governor Kathy Hochul recently announced new funding for counties to better assist at-risk populations as we enter 2022 and beyond.
$100 million in new funding is headed to counties to help homeless individuals and families leave the shelter system for a permanent home by providing rental assistance. The funds may also help very low-income New Yorkers pay their rent and increase their housing security. Administered by the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), the New York State Rental Supplement Program will provide funding to localities in all 57 counties and New York City to offer rental assistance to individuals and families experiencing homelessness or facing the imminent loss of housing. The Rental Supplement Program is now the primary state-funded rental assistance program available for New Yorkers struggling to pay rent. Adopted as part of the FY2022 budget, the program is providing nearly $68 million for New York City and more than $32 million to all other counties throughout the state. Counties will have the flexibility to develop a program that meets the needs of their underserved populations.
Who is eligible to receive financial assistance?
Households seeking the rent supplement may earn no more than 50% of the Area Median Income (AMI) to be eligible. Initial priority will be given to those earning 30% or less. Half of the supplements are earmarked for families or individuals that are in shelters or experiencing homelessness, and the program is available to all eligible households, regardless of their immigration status.
Rental supplement amounts will be funded at 85% of the local fair-market rent values, with localities having the option to pay up to 100% by using local funds. A household receiving the supplement will contribute no more than 30% of their total earned income toward their monthly rent. The supplement can only be used for upcoming rental payments, with local social service districts determining coverage for arrears, which can only be paid with local funds.
Each county or locality must opt into the program and submit a distribution plan to OTDA. They may choose to directly administer their allocation or delegate it to another public agency, contractor, or non-profit organization.
While the precariousness of housing has increased for many, the greater attention on housing issues has raised awareness about the housing crisis that we know has existed for decades.
New York State is now a national leader in rent relief funds distributed, with the full initial allotment of more than $2.1 billion fully obligated. At RBT, we understand that local government officials are facing enormous pressures. You can find added value in working with professionals who understand your governmental sector and the unique factors which impact your entity. Since 1969, our governmental clients have depended on RBT CPAs, LLP professionals for assistance with all types of financial issues, and we’re here to help you, too. Give us a call if you have questions or would like to set up a consultative appointment.