In 1974, Congress passed the Housing and Community Development Act in order to create the Section 8 Program to assist low income and disadvantaged citizens acquire adequate housing. Federal housing assistance programs were instituted after the Great Depression to tackle the housing crisis the country faced back then. Today, we confront a similar crisis in accessing housing for a significant number of New Yorkers whose Section 8 vouchers have been terminated.
Section 8 housing vouchers were a solution to the predicament most low income individuals faced on a monthly basis: how much of their salary went towards rent. Under the Section 8 program the federal government pays up to 70% of rent, while qualified individuals are responsible for making up the difference depending on family income. A voucher may be either “project based,” where its use is limited to a specific building complex, or “tenant based,” where the tenant is free to choose any residence in the private sector and is not limited to a specific complex. When individuals apply for Section 8 housing, they have to wait at least three months to get the voucher. For tenant based vouchers, the individual has to search for a landlord who is engaged with the program. While the housing authority provides a list of landlords, often the list is not up to date. Before anyone can move into a rental unit, an inspection needs to be conducted in order to determine whether or not a unit is habitable.
On December 18, 2009, The New York Times article, “Thousands Lose Rent Vouchers in Cutback,” revealed that the New York City Housing Authority notified 3,018 families who had received vouchers that the vouchers would be terminated. Additionally, “since May, the agency has limited vouchers to those in emergency situations, and has stopped giving them out to families who are not in crisis. As a result, a majority of the 3,018 voucher holders were in emergency situations, including those who had recently been homeless, victims of domestic violence and young people leaving foster care.” This termination has specifically impacted at least 10 women Sakhi works with. The cutback in Section 8 vouchers has affected an already vulnerable population and the New York City Housing Authority has not provided a feasible alternative to the individuals who are anxiously awaiting a permanent home.
- To receive more information on obtaining Section 8 housing