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Kessner wants new HUD program to help end Section 8 discrimination in Syracuse

Tom Magnarelli
Syracuse Common Councilor Jean Kessner.

About 11, 000 people in Onondaga County use housing choice vouchers or Section 8. It is legal in Syracuse and other parts of the state, for landlords to deny renters who use Section 8. Syracuse Common Councilor Jean Kessner wants to end that practice. She has held committee meetings in the past where she received pushback from the community.

“Landlords say, ‘If I do Section 8 it costs me money,’” Kessner said. “I don’t think the government should say we’re going to solve this problem by making you pay for it. I’m trying to find ways to make it revenue neutral.”

One way is Kessner wants to ask the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development about participating in a new program being tried in Washington D.C. The program provides more money in neighborhoods where the rent is higher and less where the rent is lower. Kessner said Syracuse would be a good candidate for that program.

“That would apply here in Syracuse because in some sections of the city rents are higher, in other sections they’re lower,” Kessner said. “That’s the reason we have the concentrations of poverty. We have high poverty, yes, but it’s the concentrations of poverty that keep anybody from getting out of that loop of endless poverty.”

Kessner has asked Paul Driscoll, the commissioner of Neighborhood and Business Development in Syracuse, to help draft a letter to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.