NYC Voucher Discrimination Investigation Unit’s Last Employee Leaves
The final remaining member of a New York City agency responsible for helping tenants to fight discrimination against housing vouchers has left their job.
Residents hoping to use government-issued housing vouchers but are denied apartments have relied on the NYC Human Rights Commission’s Source of Income Unit to file complaints and sometimes sue landlords for discrimination. But the SOI’s last attorney resigned April 1, leaving the unit without staff, City Limits reports.
The SOI Unit had just six staff members in 2019, City Limits reported at the time. By 2021, City Limits reported that there were just three. Now, there are none.
Rather than replace staffers who had left, City Limits reports that unfilled vacancies have been cut altogether as part of New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ budget-cutting edict, which included an order for every agency to reduce its costs by 3% in January.
The unit’s lack of staffing comes amid eye-watering rent raises for tenants across NYC. Tenants who obtained pandemic-era deals offering lower rents are now scrambling to find housing they can afford amid soaring inflation costs and a housing shortage.
Housing advocates told City Limits that without enforcement of laws protecting New Yorkers from housing discrimination, an increasing number of people are at risk of homelessness. It’s illegal for NYC landlords to discriminate against tenants who plan to use public assistance, including housing vouchers, to pay rent. But it remains widespread as a form of housing discrimination.
Agents from the SOI have caught and sued brokers and landlords for discriminating against housing vouchers via recorded phone calls and language used in apartment listings. But brokers and landlords’ discriminatory actions have become less explicit in recent years, City Limits reports, resorting to ghosting applicants after learning of vouchers or imposing credit requirements.
Meanwhile, NYC and state governments are struggling to find answers to the city’s housing dilemmas. Gov. Kathy Hochul also dropped a $250M proposed housing voucher program from her budget, Next City reported.
Additionally, only a few hundred of the thousands of housing vouchers issued to NYC under last May’s American Rescue Plan have been used to lease apartments, City Limits reported last month. At the time, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the New York City Housing Authority told City Limits that the delay was due to training providers and that it expected to start distributing more housing vouchers shortly.