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Voucher Holders: NYC Bureaucracy Snafus Put Us At Risk Of Eviction

Renters protest against reduced rent regulations in New York.

A crucial program designed to keep New Yorkers out of homelessness is mishandling applications and putting renters at risk of eviction, a new lawsuit claims.

Eight holders of CityFHEPS vouchers have filed suit against New York City, alleging that bureaucratic mistakes have put them behind on their rent, The New York Times reported. The tenants are being represented by the Legal Aid Society.

“These are people who do not have to be homeless,” attorney Lilia Toson with the civil law reform unit at Legal Aid Society told the Times. “We have a solution that is already working, that is already paid for, that is already an established system, that the city is just failing.”

The applicants say they have filed for renewals, but the city has failed to process the applications for months. In some cases, they said emails to the city voucher program have bounced back, the Times reported. A spokesperson for the Social Services Department denied that there were systemic issues and said any problems are quickly addressed.

“CityFHEPS vouchers are a lifeline for many New Yorkers experiencing homelessness or facing eviction, and any New Yorker with a CityFHEPS voucher should be able to rely on it," the spokesperson told the Times.

Landlord groups expressed concerns about voucher payments being handled by the city on time — the margins for multifamily owners in the city have been compressed in recent years by the pandemic, an emergency eviction moratorium and the 2019 rent reform laws.

Eviction filings dropped precipitously in February, according to data from the Housing Data Coalition, compiled by Eviction Lab. After rising from roughly 1,500 per week immediately following the eviction moratorium's lifting to more than 2,500 per week in January, they fell below 1,000 the week ending Feb. 26. Housing experts had told Bisnow in January they expected a surge in filings, but it hasn't yet materialized in the data.