Dinowitz Fights to Save Senior Citizen from Homelessness in Section 8 Fiasco

NYCHA drops the ball as landlord demands back rent after losing subsidy
May 11, 2010
If a local landlord and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) have their way, an 84-year-old could soon end up on the streets.

A resident at 3840 Orloff Avenue lost her rent subsidy through the Section 8 housing program administered by NYCHA after her apartment failed an inspection 10 months ago. After the landlord made the necessary repairs, NYCHA re-inspected her apartment two weeks ago, which passed the inspection. But now the landlord is refusing to re-enter into a contract for the apartment until someone pays him the 10-month share of back rent that Section 8 did not pay, essentially holding the tenant hostage. The tenant, whose monthly income is less than her apartment’s legal rent, may get evicted from her home of 43 years and end up homeless.

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx) wrote to NYCHA this week urging a resolution to the matter. He cited the landlord’s claim that NYCHA took over six months to re-inspect the apartment after he had made repairs, which not only unnecessarily denied the subsidy during that time, but also voided her current Section 8 contract, allowing the landlord to opt out of a new one. Assemblyman Dinowitz requested that NYCHA reinstate the tenant in her current apartment.

Assemblyman Dinowitz expressed outrage that the landlord’s failure to properly maintain the apartment, and NYCHA’s failure to re-inspect it in a timely manner, had imposed a financial burden on the tenant and may result in her eviction. He is extremely concerned that failing an apartment inspection could actually be used as a tool to get out of a Section 8 contract: if the landlord was willing to forfeit a few months of subsidized rent payments, he or she could bet on NYCHA taking longer than six months to re-inspect the apartment, at which point the current contract would become void.

“An 84-year-old who has lived in her apartment for 43 years has been told she may have to leave her home. Why? The landlord has failed to make repairs and the bureaucrats who run the Section 8 program have failed to look out for her interests,” said Assemblyman Dinowitz. “Unresponsive bureaucrats who provide landlords with incentives to not keep apartments in proper repair can result in homelessness for the elderly and the poor. What a disgrace.”

Should the tenant be forced to move out, NYCHA has indicated that under current regulations she would qualify for a Section 8 voucher for a new studio apartment (although there is no guarantee she’d be able to find a landlord who will accept the voucher). Ironically, the studio apartment voucher would cover rents that exceed the current legal rate of her apartment.

“It doesn’t make any sense to force a senior citizen to move to a studio apartment that will end up costing the City more than it is already paying. It is unbelievable that NYCHA has proposed this as a solution, rather than helping her stay in her apartment of 43 years,” said Assemblyman Dinowitz.