Proposed pilot program would establish housing vouchers for Monroe County families in need

[anvplayer video=”5195073″ station=”998131″]

MONROE COUNTY, N.Y. — Housing advocates and elected officials rallied in downtown Rochester on Thursday night in support of proposed legislation that would make affordable housing more accessible to families struggling to keep a roof over their heads.

Monroe County Legislator Rachel Barnhart is calling for action on a new housing stability pilot program that would provide vouchers to the homeless and families at risk of losing their homes.

On the steps of the county office building, Barnhart joined others supporting the proposed pilot program.

“The housing stability pilot would essentially fill the gap between what the state provides in a rental allowance and what the state provides for an apartment in Monroe County,” she said.

The pilot program — which would provide rental subsidies to cover the gap between the state’s public assistance shelter allowance and the federal-set fair market rent standard — would target approximately 125 public assistance households or the maximum number that available funding permits. It’s specifically for unhoused families or those at risk of homelessness.

That’s a situation Stephanie Forrester says she and her family have experienced.

“I’ve been homeless off and on since i was 16 years old and in and out of shelters — and you know, when my kids and I were homeless we had a really difficult time finding an apartment,” Forrester said.

According to the framework of the housing stability pilot, participating families must include one or more children under the age of 18 and must earn no more than 30 percent of the area median income, which is $35,000 for 2021. Those participants would be enrolled in this program for 12 months.

“We have the funds projected to be unspent by the end of the year, so we don’t have to add anything to the budget here — and if we can use those funds to house a hundred or more families for a full year with children, that is something we should do,” Barnhart said.

Program participants would be chosen in accordance with the plan developed by the Monroe County executive or his designee.

Barnhart says this program would serve as a bridge to affordable housing for families unable to afford the cost of living in the county.

“What the state provides has not changed since 2003. it’s $343 for a family of three for a two-bedroom apartment. Where are you going to find that in Monroe County? You can’t. This pilot would essentially fill the gap for a year — give people the chance to have permanent housing,” Barnhart said.

Barnhart also plans on submitting a resolution calling on Governor Hochul and state legislators to increase the shelter rent allowance provided by the state.