Friday, December 2, 2011

Preventing Homelessness in New York

The Advantage Program, which was set up to assist families living in shelters by providing rental subsidies for temporary housing, sadly ended earlier this year (read our post: "How do Homeless Families survive without the Advantage Program?"). Since then many people were left with unanswered questions, as was evidenced on a recent morning, when men and women worried about losing their homes attended a lecture entitled “Life After Advantage.” It was held at the Harlem storefront office of HomeBase Palladia, one of 13 HomeBase offices managed by different non-profit groups scattered around the five boroughs of NYC (for a complete list, see below). Their main mission is to prevent homelessness.

The speaker, Romy Martin, posed the question that was bothering every person in that audience: “What are my options when my subsidy ends?” First, she gave them some hard facts: landlords that take the Advantage subsidy will receive their October payments and tenants will be required to pay their share.

Then, she told them, “Depending on court actions, this may be your last month of subsidy. Regardless, the subsidy is coming to an end sooner rather than later. DHS has NO intention of restoring it or replacing it. This does not mean that your lease will terminate. If you have a lease, you will be responsible for paying the whole rent.”

Having established there’s no rescue in sight, Ms. Martin gave her audience good advice about taking steps to protect their own homes.

If it is possible to increase your income this is a good time to do it. You could:
• Request additional hours at work
• Change jobs
• Make sure everyone in the household contributes to the rent
• Make sure all household members are receiving all benefits they are eligible to get
• Do budgeting; separate needs from wants
• Find a roommate

Other options:
• Consider moving to a more affordable space
• Explore other boroughs
• Apply for low income, affordable housing in lotteries every week at
• Follow up on NYCHA applications
• Check with DHCR to find out your legally registered rent in case the landlord wants to raise it

Meantime, the Legal Aid Society assures you the landlord cannot evict you without taking you to Housing
Court. You should not leave your apartment to reapply at PATH just because your Advantage rent has not been paid. You should know that landlords sometimes look at a person's history in Housing Court before deciding to rent them an apartment. So, if you have never been sued before in Housing Court, you might consider whether to leave your apartment before being sued.

You may be eligible for rent arrears under a rent program called FEPS (“Family Eviction Prevention
Supplement”). The FEPS program is available only to households with minor children with active cash public
assistance cases who have been sued by their landlord in a court case that can result, or did result, in their eviction and one of the elements in the case is/was that excess rent is/was owed.

In addition to facing a nonpayment or holdover case in housing court, you may also meet these requirements if:
• you were evicted within the past 6 months and are in the shelter system,
• you were evicted in the past year and are doubled up,
• you left your apartment due to a government vacate order, or
• you left your apartment because of a foreclosure proceeding.

Your rent must fall within the rent caps for your household size. The rules of FEPS are extremely complicated.

Legal Aid suggests you call HomeBase to talk about your options (see list below). Or walk in to the Crisis Intervention Program of the Coalition for the Homeless at 129 Fulton Street, lower Manhattan. Arrive by 8 am Monday through Friday to be sure you will be seen the day you come in.

If you are being evicted, call the Legal Aid office in your borough.
Bronx (718) 9991-4600
Brooklyn (718) 722-3100
Manhattan (212) 426-3000
Queens (718) 286-2450
Staten Island (347) 422-5333

Excerpted from How...When...Where: Information for homeless and relocated families in New York City
(November 2011)