Op-Ed | Renters want vouchers. Lawmakers should take notice.


Over the past week, more than half a million New York renters have applied to get on a waiting list for federal Housing Choice Voucher, which is colloquially known as Section 8. If it wasn’t clear before, it should be clear now: there is tremendous demand for the government to help renters pay for affordable housing. 

We know, from years of experience, that the federal Housing Choice Voucher will never be enough to meet this demand. This is why the city and state have advanced smaller voucher programs designed to meet different needs, like the Family Homelessness and Eviction Protection (FHEPs) voucher, which replaced a host of previous voucher programs. 

This is also why the city and state should be expanding the availability of vouchers and striving for a universal voucher program to meet the need. One step in that direction would have been passing the Housing Access Voucher Program (HAVP), which has been floating around Albany for the past few years. 

Our organization, the Community Housing Improvement Program, has been speaking directly to New Yorkers about this program for the past month. Encouraging the legislature to pass it and letting renters know how it might help them. 

The response has been eye-opening. Thousands of renters have messaged us to ask how they can help, why it hasn’t passed yet, and to share their personal stories. 

An elderly person told us they are in a shelter in one county and they want to find permanent housing with a voucher in another county, but they can’t get transferred. HAVP is transferable, so this person could look for permanent housing where they want to live. 

A veteran who has a job and a current home is scared they won’t be able to keep up with their rent payments. HAVP would cap the amount this person pays in rent at 30% of their income, and the government would cover the rest, giving them peace of mind. 

An elderly woman who relies on her son to take care of her is renting a bedroom in a three-family home with eight other people. The overcrowded situation is detrimental to her health. An HAVP voucher would allow her to move into a small studio or one-bedroom that would better suit her needs. 

A father wrote to us looking to help his daughter who is a single mom raising six children who says a voucher like HAVP or a Housing Choice Voucher would be life-changing for their family. 

In total, more than 1,800 people reached out to us via email and text message to voice support for expanding vouchers and making the process easier. HAVP would do both those things. It is designed to mirror the federal Housing Choice Voucher, which means it will operate in similar fashion, have the same standards for inspections, and require the same information from tenants. 

For owners, streamlining the application and inspection process is vital to running a building. Delays in the process lead to apartments sitting empty and the owner having less operating income for maintenance and necessary upgrades. 

Expanding vouchers will also improve the quality of housing. Apartments must be inspected and brought up to code, ensuring that they are safe and clean. Many of the people who contacted us over the past month have shared stories of friends or family living in beautiful apartments because they were lucky enough to get vouchers. 

It is abundantly clear that the best way to help tenants is to listen to them. They want more vouchers. They want the process to work better. The government should respond. A good first step would be making the passage of HAVP a priority in 2025. 

Jay Martin is the executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP)