When President Joe Biden promised to expand federal rental assistance to every eligible American on the campaign trail, he was not just promising to provide housing security to millions of Americans across the country – he was signaling that he is willing to implement the single biggest improvement to the social safety net since the Great Society of the 1960s. If implemented, making rental assistance universal to all in need would represent one of the boldest policy initiatives to combat poverty and economic inequality in American history.

While the pandemic has certainly underscored the importance of housing security to America’s physical and emotional health, the reality is that Americans have been suffering from a housing emergency for decades. Unfortunately, our housing safety net is not equipped for the challenge: right now, just one-in-four households who qualify for rental assistance actually get it. That’s because of historic disinvestment from the program – a deliberate policy choice that is leaving millions of our neighbors behind.

This report shows just how transformative making access to housing assistance universal would be. Alongside HR&A Advisors, the New York Housing Conference studied the impact this would have on New York state. We found that New York would expect the following benefits with a full housing safety net:

  • Financial support and improved health and other outcomes for low-income households
  • Greater equity, well-being, and access to opportunity
  • A reduction in chronic homelessness
  • Increased local economic activity and additional jobs
  • Additional local and state tax revenues
  • A boost in affordable housing production

In total, more than 300,000 New Yorkers would be lifted out of poverty, the overwhelming majority of whom would be Black or Latino. Our study shows the urgency of the issue at hand – and shows us just what we are choosing to leave on the table by maintaining the status quo.