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Photo by Anthony Giudice/QNS
Photo by Anthony Giudice/QNS
Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi visited the Juniper Park Civic Association to talk about his Home Stability Support plan in 2016.

The 2018 New York state budget could include assistance for families in danger of becoming homeless thanks to a Queens assemblyman’s advancement of an enhanced rent voucher system.

Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi announced on March 19 that he and state Senator Jeff Klein have both included in their respective budget proposals $15 million for the Home Stability Support plan (HSS). According to the press release, the money would be used to keep families and individuals in their homes as well as provide assistance to those already homeless in an attempt to afford them with the stability needed to escape the cycle of poverty.

“After nearly two years of working on creative and pragmatic ways to stem the tide of homelessness in New York state, I am proud to say that I believe this is the first step towards truly and effectively helping our homeless population,” Hevesi said. “This new subsidy will give recipients a life-changing opportunity towards self-sufficiency and stability.”

According to the HSS website, the rent supplement will be available to those who are eligible for public assistance benefits and who are facing eviction, homelessness or loss of housing due to domestic violence or hazardous living conditions. HSS will be 100 percent funded by federal and state dollars and will replace all existing optional rent supplements.

“New York families should not call a hotel or motel home,” added Klein, whose Senate district in the Bronx covers some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. “Stable, affordable housing is critical to getting our homeless families and individuals off the streets.”

Hevesi, whose district covers much of Middle Village, presented his plan at a Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA) meeting back in 2016 where it was met with mixed reviews. While many JPCA members agreed with the plan, in theory, they also wondered if it would entice more homeless individuals from out-of-state to come to New York to take advantage of the benefits.

Councilman Robert Holden, former president of the JPCA for 25 years, told QNS on March 21 that he didn’t believe that would happen if HSS was adopted by the state and expressed his support for the plan.

“I think there’s a lot of things that protect against that, obviously there’s some loopholes, but does anybody else have an idea for stopping this spiraling-out-of-control homelessness that we’re seeing?” Holden said. “Let’s try it, I’d say, it can work. Anything to keep people in their homes, I’d rather keep them in their original apartments than in a one-room hotel.”

Hevesi’s plan also won the support of Community Board 5 in 2016. One of its most appealing qualities is that it would save taxpayers millions of dollars per year, according to the HSS website. HSS would cost $9,865 per year for an individual while housing an individual in a shelter costs $25,925.

On March 20, the Coalition for the Homeless released a report outlining the difficulties the homeless face when trying to enter shelters, and it said that the state must implement Hevesi’s proposal moving forward.

These house budget proposals from Hevesi and Klein will now be considered for the final enacted budget. The final decision ultimately lies with Governor Andrew Cuomo, who did not include HSS in the state budget in 2017.

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