Housing Vouchers Proposed for Monroe County 

Read WHEC’s coverage.

Read WXXI’s coverage.

(Update: The legal department claims the Legislature cannot direct the County Executive to create a program. Legislator Barnhart disagrees with this interpretation of the Charter, but will work on ways to present this plan again in the future.)

Housing advocates, people with lived experience, and elected officials announced legislation to create the Housing Stability Pilot, a housing voucher program that will be introduced in the Monroe County Legislature.

The Housing Stability Pilot would have the following framework: 

  • The pilot would aim to target approximately 125 public assistance households, or the maximum number that available funding permits, that are unhoused or at risk of homelessness.
  • Participating families must include one or more children under the age of 18.
  • Eligible households must earn no more than 30% of the Area Median Income.
  • Rental subsidies would be provided that cover the gap between the state’s public assistance shelter allowance and the Fair Market Rent (FMR) standard set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (In Monroe County, the FMR is $1,186 for a two-bedroom apartment.)
  • Recipients would be enrolled in the pilot for approximately 12 months.
  • Participants would be chosen in accordance with the plan developed by the Monroe County Executive or his designee.
  • Monroe County would study the impact of the housing vouchers on participants.

At the press conference, impacted people will talk about how housing vouchers would have a material positive effect on their lives. 

The cost of the pilot would not exceed $2 million. Funds would come from unused Safety net Assistance appropriations, so there would be no impact on the county budget. The Legislature will consider the plan, sponsored by Legislator Rachel Barnhart, later in October during committee meetings.

New York’s public assistance shelter rent allowance has not changed since 2003 and stands at $343 for a family of three occupying a two-bedroom apartment for Monroe County. There are zero habitable apartments priced at or below the shelter rent allowance in Monroe County. The Housing Stability Pilot bridges the gap between rent assistance and fair market rent rates. 

The Empire Justice Center found that the shelter rent allowance provided by New York State for unhoused individuals and families is “arbitrary and irrational” in its report, “No Keys to Safe and Decent Housing in New York’s ‘Safety Net.’” The report recommended the state mandate counties do what this pilot recommends: supplement shelter rent allowances for people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. 

The Children’s Agenda reported that 8% of Rochester students were homeless at some point during the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school years, which can lead to poor academic performance and behavioral issues.

Legislator Barnhart is also submitting a “memorializing resolution” calling on Governor Kathy Hochul and state legislators to increase the shelter rent allowance. Other county legislators will have the option of signing the resolution.

Rental subsidies like those being proposed are a key part of the Monroe Housing Plan to end homelessness. See https://Monroehousingplan.com.