NYS announces new pilot program to increase housing opportunities for those formerly incarcerated

WSYR-TV - Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office announced on Friday pilot projects at three public housing authorities to help formerly incarcerated New Yorkers safely reunite with their families under a new pilot program.

Syracuse, among Schenectady and White Plains, have heeded a call from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development to allow carefully screened and monitored people with convictions to live in public housing with their families.

"Stable housing drastically reduces the risk of recidivism and, under this initiative, qualified individuals who meet careful screening and monitoring guidelines will be able to be reunited with their families," Cuomo said. "This pilot program will help break down barriers, aid in their reintegration into society and increase public safety.”

In an effort to aid the authorities’ efforts, the New York State Department of State is providing funding for case management that will track these individuals, and the Department of Correction and Community Supervision will monitor participants through their parole officers and undertake home visits as part of the normal course of supervision as well as any other time that the housing authority requests they do so.

These housing-related recommendations have already begun to have a positive impact, and in 2016 alone:

  • Less than one percent of the 16,755 applicants for New York State-distributed Section 8 rental assistance were denied because of previous convictions.
  • Six organizations recently received conditional awards in the Empire State Supported Housing Initiative to create 86 units statewide of supported housing that is targeted specifically at the formerly incarcerated.
  • 100 supportive housing units for the formerly incarcerated who are mentally ill are currently being built in New York City.
  • Close to 200 individuals with domestic violence histories have been allowed to live with partners with whom they have no history of violence, changing prior exclusionary practices that left them homeless in many instances.

Public housing authorities supported by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, including all of the urban housing authorities in New York State, have the lawful discretion to screen housing applicants with past criminal behavior on an individualized basis – excluding sex offenders and methamphetamine producers.

However, many authorities refuse to give applicants this fair assessment. This results in people who present little risk to society being separated from family members, and forced into unstable housing or homelessness at the expense to themselves and our communities. 

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