Appeals Court Stops Bloomberg from Cutting Off Housing Aid

A state appeals court has temporarily blocked the Bloomberg administration from cutting off rent subsidies to 15,000 formerly homeless people.

On June 2, the Appellate Division, First Department, issued a stay preventing the city from eliminating the subsidies paid under the Advantage program until September. The Bloomberg administration is trying to close the program, which provides rent aid for up to two years to formerly homeless tenants who work or receive job training.

The Legal Aid Society filed a class-action suit in March to stop the city from cutting off the subsidies, arguing that the agreements it made with both the people in the program and their landlords were enforceable contracts. The decision prevents the city from cutting off subsidies through September pending an appeal, says Legal Aid Society spokesperson Patricia Bath. A trial on the overall lawsuit is scheduled for the end of June in state court.

“This decision prevents thousands of formerly homeless children and adults from facing eviction and repeat homelessness this summer,” Legal Aid attorney-in-chief Steven Banks said in a statement. “These families and individuals would never have moved into these apartments that they cannot afford without these subsidies.”

The court order means that the city will pay rent for June, July, August and September for people in the program, says Bath.

Some housing advocates have called the program inadequate, saying that the aid it provides is too little—tenants in the second year have to pay 40 percent of their income in rent—and too temporary to prevent people from becoming homeless again. Meanwhile, the Bloomberg administration, which decided to eliminate the program after federal and state aid was cut earlier this year, has argued that the program’s generosity was enticing people into the shelters.

“One theory is that some people have been coming into the homeless system, the shelter system, in order to qualify for a program that helps you move out of the homeless system,” the mayor said in a radio broadcast earlier this year.