Advocates Speak Out Against End of NYC Rent Subsidy Program

NYC Councilman Charles Barron and Advocates for the homeless spoke out on Thursday

Advocates for the homeless denounced Tuesday's ruling allowing New York City to end its rent subsidy program.

They’re saying the decision will put thousands of people back into homelessness. On Tuesday, New York State Supreme Court Justice Judith J. Gische said the city was within its rights to end the Advantage Program since it is a social program and the city was not bound by a contract.

New York City Councilman Charles Barron says it’s unfair for the city to back out on its promise. “You’re bailing out of a commitment. It's morally incorrect, politically incorrect and we think legally incorrect,” and he went on to say the city has money to keep the program running.

Commissioner of the New York City Homeless Services, Seth Diamond, says that’s not the case. “The reality is there isn’t money…the city is alone now, the state and federal government have withdrawn their support.”

The Bloomberg administration originally said the program would be ending this past spring. That was after fighting to preserve the program by asking for federal and state financial support, which they did not get. The Legal Aid Society, a nonprofit, along with a private Law Firm, sued the city on behalf of subsidy recipients saying the program amounted to a contract. Justice Gische said that wasn’t true.

An appeals court ordered the city to continue to pay the subsidies while the legal fight ensued. That order still stands until the city takes further legal action to get the order voided. According to Diamond, they plan on taking that action but have paid subsidies through the month of September.

Senior Policy Analyst at the Coalition for the Homeless, Patrick Markee, says the legal fight isn’t over. “The court ruling from this week, of course, is disappointing, but it is not the last word,” he said.

The Advantage Program is a rent-subsidy program which helps formerly homeless people pay for apartments once they obtain a minimum wage job for up to two years. In the wake of program’s end, Commissioner Diamond said the city will still try to help those affected. “We’ll be reaching out to them trying to see if we can assist through financial counseling, employment assistance…we’re going to be proactive in trying to work something out so that people can stay in the community,” he said.

There has been no set date for when the program will officially end. 

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