Niagara Gazette

Local News

January 15, 2013

ousing grant measure sent to county committee Tuesday night

Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — County Democratic lawmakers efforts to change state law to compel welfare recipients to give their rent subsidies to landlords was sent to committee Tueday night.

Three resolutions were put to the Legislature called on New York state to: change state law so that Social Services departments pay welfare recipients’ monthly housing grants directly to rental property owners; make it a crime statewide for welfare recipients to not turn over their housing grants to landlords; or give Niagara County Social Services only the authority to directly pay rental property owners on behalf of all Temporary Aid to Needy Families recipients. They were all sent to committee.

More than a dozen people came to the meeting to speak or support those speaking to the legislature about the proposals, which are backed by the Landlords Association of Greater Niagara.

Association members argued Social Services should send welfare clients' rent subsidies directly to landlords for the good of whole communities. When landlords are shorted on rent payments, they can't invest in property upkeep, which leads to neighborhood deterioration, residential flight, a decline in the overall tax base and, consequently, cities raising their property tax rates, supporters say.

The legislature's minority caucus, Niagara Falls Democrats Dennis Virtuoso, Jason Zona and Owen Steed, co-sponsored three resolutions calling on the state to change existing law, or make new law, to compel the use of welfare recipients' monthly housing subsidies on housing only.

The resolutions seek: a change in state law requiring rent subsidies be paid directly to landlords, not Temporary Aid to Needy Families recipients; or new law making it a crime for welfare recipients to spend their housing grants on anything other than rent; or a "home rule" message from the state Legislature allowing the Department of Social Services to turn over rent grants to Niagara County rental property owners.

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