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Homeless Youth With Housing Vouchers Illegally Rejected by Bronx Landlord, Suit Alleges


The City 
By Jonathan Custodio
February 8, 2023
Excerpt from original article

In 2022, young adults who were working with Safe Horizon applied for studio apartments in a building in the Williamsbridge section of The Bronx.

On December 8, Joseph Armato, the landlord’s real estate broker, informed Safe Horizon that nine of its clients had been accepted, including five of the six plaintiffs, according to the suit filed on Monday in Manhattan Supreme Court. A few days later, it alleges, Armato submitted tenancy approval documents signed by Kalaj for the nine apartments.

Seeking Studios — and Damages

Under city and state law, landlords are barred from rejecting any prospective or current tenants from using housing vouchers or discriminating based on source of income.

As young adults experiencing unstable housing or homelessness, the six plaintiffs all qualified for an emergency housing voucher program that helps with costs like security deposits and brokers’ fees. The program operates under the same rules as the Section 8 program from which they also all received vouchers to help with rent.

The suit seeks to have Kalaj offer apartments to all qualifying Safe Horizon applicants while paying at least $50,000 in compensatory and punitive damages per plaintiff, and to enjoin the building from renting or leasing any units until that’s happened.

Rudolph emphasized that housing is the principal goal for the litigation but that damages are also on the table, especially if the landlord refuses to move forward with housing for their clients.

While the city housing authority is named as a defendant in the suit, “NYCHA has been incredibly helpful to us throughout this process,” Stephanie Rudolph, The Legal Aid Society attorney representing the prospective tenants and Safe Horizon, told THE CITY in an email.

Waiting Lists

With limited resources available to support young adults experiencing homelessness, any disruption in supplying them with housing slows down services that can be provided to others. That’s according to Joe Westmacott, assistant director of housing and benefits for Safe Horizon’s Streetwork Project, which operates drop-in centers, a 24-bed shelter and an outreach program for young New Yorkers. Nearly 60% of its clients are Black, and about half identify as LGBTQ, he said.

“Everything has waiting lists,” Westmacott continued. “We had 14 clients who were supposed to be already housed in this building, and not not only are they not moved in, but we have to spend time trying to find them other housing so they don’t lose their vouchers.

“And that takes away from time and resources that should be going to other clients if these people have been housed.”

Read original article here. 

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