For more than 3,000 people in Syracuse, the best hope for affordable homes is being on the city’s waitlist for public housing. And for another 7,000 the best hope is the waitlist for Section 8 vouchers for subsidized housing.
“The wait is so long because of the function of the economy,” said William Simmons, director of the Syracuse Housing Authority. Some of those on the waitlists can’t get jobs that pay enough to afford homes. Some are elderly or disabled. And others are on the streets because of substance abuse or mental illness.
Here’s a look at housing statistics, from the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development.:
- Nationally in the year 2012, there were 1.2 million households who live in subsidized housing.
- New York had about 552,011 people dependant on assisted housing in 2012.
- In Onondaga County, there were 18,564 people in subsidized homes in the same year.
- Of those, 13,746 were Syracuse residents.
- The median gross rent in Syracuse is $700. For 15,642 people, that is 50 percent of their income.
- In 2012, the majority of people on housing assistance in Onondaga County were between the ages of 25 and 49 or 62 and older. A little over 60 percent are minorities.
To help people get affordable homes, Onondaga County offers seven subsidized housing programs. The programs include help for veterans, future homeowners, families, singles, the disabled or sick.
For the state, the 2014 state budget has allowed for $100 million to develop and maintain 3,000 affordable housing units. On the lines of a long term goals, the House NY Program was created last year and its plan is to invest $1 billion by 2018 to create and keep up 14,300 housing units. For the city, HomeHeadquarters, a nonprofit home revitalization program, has rehabilitated six homes, demolished 12 and built eight homes in the last year.
But those without homes need more than those programs, say local housing advocates.
The brutal winter months make it more expensive to keep housing and those on assistance such as the disabled barely receive enough money to pay for utilities, said Jim Taylor, chair of Housing and Homeless Coalition of Syracuse and Onondaga County. Landlords lose most of their money during this time and there are no incentives to have affordable housing, he said.
The area also needs more houses that accommodate to different groups like singles, he said. And some groups need special services to be able to stay in a home, he said. “Some people just think throw money on a problem and it’s fixed. But one out of three homeless persons have mental problems and there is no adequate psychological resources. And third of the homeless have problems with substance abuse and they have no adequate care,” said Taylor.
Walt Dixie is executive director of Jubilee Homes, a federal funded nonprofit that builds housing for low- to middle-income families. He calls for more federal and local government money to build more homes for middle-class and poor residents. His group, Jubilee homes, has built 96 homes over 30 years but now it is endangered by government cuts, Dixie said.
“Nowadays Congress is not so kind with dollars and that’s an ongoing ideology,” said Dixie. “Until that gets better nothing will change.”
(Shantinique Brooks is a senior majoring in broadcast and digital journalism with a minor in political science.)