State

Proposed subsidy to make low income eviction less likely

Lukas Halloran | Staff Photographer

The state’s decision stems from a litigation case that was filed in December 2015 by the New York City-based Legal Aid Society, after four single mothers filed a lawsuit because they couldn’t afford to pay their rent.

Families facing eviction in New York state are less likely to be evicted because of the state’s recent decision to increase a rent subsidy.

The Family Eviction Prevention Supplement program will provide additional funding to residents whose rent is above the regular shelter allowance owed to them. There have been no increases to the amount given to people in need since 2004, despite increased rent prices. This has led to many people being unable to afford where they live, and then getting evicted.

The state’s decision stems from a litigation case that was filed in December 2015 by the New York City-based Legal Aid Society, after four single mothers filed a lawsuit because they couldn’t afford to pay their rent.

New York state Assembly member Andrew Hevesi (D-Queens) is working on a statewide rent assistance program called Home Stability Support. The program has received support by 112 state assembly members, according to the HSS website.

Hevesi’s program aims to be a “bridge” between the current shelter allowance that families can have and a market rate that is fair for the area they live, per the website. With over 130,000 homeless children in New York state, according to a document provided by Home Stability Support, the proponents of the program believe this is a fight they need to tackle.

Susan Bahn, a senior attorney working at Legal Aid Society, who worked on the rent supplement case, said she believes Hevesi’s plan is the strongest proposal that would do the most good for the state.

“Rent subsidies are tied to the federal Fair Market Rents, which are set every year based on the census and cost of living increases. That program also has a one-year transitional benefit for everyone whose income goes up based on work or another source of income such as disability benefits so they don’t lose the entire subsidy right away,” Bahn said.

Bahn’s group, Legal Aid, has been fighting for adequate shelter allowances since 1987 when they began the Jiggetts v. Grinker case, she said. The case was closed in 2005, however, in the 18 years before the case was officially closed, “tens of thousands” of families received some type of rent assistance, Bahn said.

Through the Jiggetts v. Grinker case, the New York Court of Appeals ruled families with children must pay a reasonable amount for the housing. After the result of the case, the Family Eviction Prevention Supplement was created in 2005.

There are six requirements for eligibility for the Family Eviction Prevention Supplement. A parent, guardian or caretaker must be a recipient of regular cash assistance, or have a child under 18 years old, according to a fact sheet provided by the Legal Aid Society. Another requirement is that a person cannot owe more than $7,000 on rent and have no other way to pay the rent they are owed, per the fact sheet.

The amount of people in a household eligible for public assistance depends on whether they can receive either regular shelter or extra shelter allowances, according to the fact sheet. Currently, a family of three will receive $400 a month of shelter allowance and the Family Eviction Prevention Supplement will pay an additional $450. However, the new subsidy will mean that FEPS will pay $1,115 so the family could afford an apartment worth $1,515 a month, Bahn said.

This initiative has received support from Syracuse government officials, too. Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner supported the Home Stability Support program in November 2016, according to WAER. The Housing and Homeless Coalition of Central New York is leading the initiative in central New York, with similar programs going throughout the state.

The settlement between the state and the Legal Aid Society means that both sides have to give in pursuit of the greater good. The increase of supplements is not the only benefit of this agreement. It also increases the safety and security for those involved in domestic violence disputes.

“Victims of domestic violence will be able to obtain the supplement if they are fleeing their batterer or in limited circumstances they may be able to keep their apartment,” Bahn said.

The most important part of the agreement is that the funds will begin being distributed in the next few months, which is different from the Jiggetts case where funding was limited, Bahn said. These funds will be immediately available to help those facing homelessness and eviction.

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