A settlement for a lawsuit filed on behalf of four single mothers in New York City against a New York State law will substantially increase the monthly rent subsidies the State provides to low-income families facing eviction, beginning as early as April.
The decision was made on February 26. The lawsuit was aimed specifically at the Family Eviction Prevention Supplement (FEPS) program started in 2005 that provides ongoing rental assistance for up to five years to families receiving Public Assistance.
FEPS was created by the Human Resources Administration and is funded by both the city and state. FEPS’s focus is on supporting people who are in danger of being evicted and losing their home due to unpaid rent. It was created as a form of short term stabilization until individuals gain self-sufficiency. Qualified candidates can receive up to $7000 to pay their back rent on a one time basis only. And a monthly voucher/housing supplement pays for housing costs for up to five years.
However, the public assistance program has remained flat since it was established, even as rents have skyrocketed. The four women named in the suit said they faced eviction because the monthly public assistance they received from the state was “grossly inadequate” and far below fair-market rent. In 2015, fair-market rent was $1,571 for a two-bedroom apartment, and it is now $1,637.
Under the settlement, a family of three that is eligible for $850 per month would now be eligible for $1,515, a 78 percent increase.
“We cannot underestimate the impact that this improved program will have in our continued battle against homelessness,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams of the ruling. “This settlement undoubtedly addresses one of the largest contributors to this crisis, and it does so in a way that puts empathy first.”
New York City, the most populous city in the United States, has the largest number of homeless people, though most are sheltered. Kenneth R. Stephens, a supervising lawyer with the Legal Aid Society, said in an interview with the New York Times that the decision is “probably the first real positive proposal on a scale that’s consistent with the crisis that we’re facing.”
“We need empathy for our neighbors struggling on our streets, many of whom fear shelter due to decades of negligence, and we need empathy for communities that have been shouldering the weight of this issue without the resources or respect they deserve,” said Adams.