It’s no secret that rents are on the rise in Westchester County. For families in need of rent relief, such increases can be devastating. That’s why the Yonkers Municipal Housing Authority and Family Service Society of Yonkers are teaming up on a new program to support kinship families in the community.
Dubbed the Kinship Support Program, this initiative seeks to connect needy families with Section 8 Housing vouchers and relieve extreme rent hardship among families without the means to support themselves.
A “kinship family” is defined as a family unit headed by a grandparent or other non-parent relative taking care of a child. These families often come about as a result of traumas or upheavals and, in Yonkers, more than 90 percent of kinship families are classified as “extremely low income,” making it difficult to attain suitable housing.
Nationwide, monthly rents have reached all-time highs, and the median price of an apartment in Yonkers is well above the national average; the average rent for an apartment in Yonkers is more than $2,000/month. Many kinship families lack the resources to afford these soaring prices, especially when the heads of households are grandparents who are retired and not actively bringing in money through employment. In Yonkers, most kinship families are headed by single grandmothers.
According to Sylvia Gaynor, a kinship caregiver and member of FSSY’s GrandPower Advocacy Project, “Kinship caregivers face many unique challenges in finding safe, affordable housing in which to raise our children. Many of us are senior citizens with very little financial resources, and some of us live in senior housing. After we take responsibility for our grandchildren, we no longer qualify for that senior housing and have to relocate.”
Section 8 housing is a government program intended to provide some form of rent relief by assisting in the payment of qualifying households’ rent. The program operates under a voucher system, and every year helps more than two million low-income households to pay their rent. Even so, there is scarcity and no guarantee that a qualifying household will receive one of the much-needed vouchers.
What the YMHA and FSSY are working to do is give kinship families preference in receiving Section 8 vouchers so that these family units already under undue economic stress can afford somewhere to live.
The Family Service Society of Yonkers was founded in 1883 and, through this Kinship Support Program with the YMHA, assists 50 families. In Yonkers alone, there are more than 1,400 grandparents raising grandchildren and, until unmanageably high rent prices are addressed, more and more families, both kinship and not, may continue to struggle in finding safe and affordable housing in Westchester.