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Politics and Government

Syracuse Council wants Onondaga County to match $1 million in expanding eligibility for rent relief

Michael Collins.jpg
Tom Magnarelli
Neighborhood and Business Development Commissioner Michael Collins speaks in front of the Syracuse Common Council.

The city of Syracuse wants to expand the income eligibility of people who are getting rental assistance from the federal government because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But before city councilors allocate the money, they want to see if Onondaga County, which is administering the rent relief program, will match it.

The current cap for rental assistance is at 80% of area median income. For a two-person family in Syracuse, that’s about $51,000 a year.

"The need is greater than that,” said Michael Collins, the city’s commissioner of Neighborhood and Business Development. “We've heard that from our constituents, we've heard that from our landlords and we want to address that need."

Mayor Ben Walsh’s administration wants to expand the cap to 100% of area median income for city residents. They’re proposing to spend $1 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. Collins said both the landlord and the tenant have to apply and the house or apartment needs to be on the rental registry or have no open code violations.

“So the housing is safe, we’re able to determine the housing is safe, the tenant is protected and the landlord can receive full payment up to 12 months in arrears,” Collins said. “It’s really addressing a significant need for both parties.”

But the Syracuse Common Council is not allocating the money just yet. Councilor Latoya Allen said they want to see if Onondaga County is willing to match the $1 million. She said it would help even more people.

“If you cap it at a million dollars, then you run into the possibility of some people’s applications being denied because we run out of funds,” Allen said.

A spokesperson for County Executive Ryan McMahon said McMahon fully supports spending the city’s million dollars. In regards to matching the million, the county’s position is to wait and see if that money is even needed. A million dollars, they contend, might solve the problem. The county has sent out about a third of the roughly $29 million it's been allocated in rent relief, so far.