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CBPP: Getting Off Housing Choice Voucher Waitlist Takes Years In Syracuse, Nationwide

Center On Budget And Policy Priorities

Families struggling to afford rent in Syracuse wait an average ofsix and a half years on the waitlist for Housing Choice Vouchers. Statewide, the average is over two and a half years. That’s according to a new analysis of HUD data by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. But according to one of the study’s authors Sonya Acosta, a multi-year wait is typical across the country.

“On average nationally, families that received vouchers had first spent close to two-and-a-half years on waitlists, exposing them to homelessness, overcrowding, eviction, and other hardship while they waited,” said Acosta.

Studies have shown that unstable housing situations increase harm to children’s health, development, and education. For adults, it causes high levels of stress and makes it more difficult to hold a job. And housing insecurity disproportionately affects people of color. Federal COVID-19 recovery legislation has supplied local and state agencies with increased funding for rental assistance. CBPP President Sharon Parrott says still the funds are taking too long to get to the people that need it. She argues that this is an important lesson about having strong social safety nets.

“When a crisis hits, it is far easier to help people when there are robust existing programs with designs to expand when need grows already in place,” said Parrott. “That wasn’t the case in housing, and so getting help to the people who need it has been slower than was necessary in this crisis.”

Parrott says the emergency funding alone does not fully address the problem that existed before the pandemic began. Advocates are now calling on legislators to provide expanded, multi-year funding for housing voucher programs. Researchers this would decrease wait times for vouchers and reduce housing insecurity. CBPP’s full study can be foundhere.

Katie Zilcosky is WAER’s All Things Considered host and features reporter. She also co-hosts WAER’s public affairs show Syracuse Speaks. As a reporter, she focuses on technology, economy, and identity.