Today’s Read: Homeless Shelter Residents Say Landlords are Refusing Their City Rent Vouchers

Last year, the de Blasio administration took a significant step forward in addressing record homelessness by implementing the Living in Communities (LINC) rental assistance programs.

Thousands of New Yorkers have successfully moved out of shelters and into permanent housing through the LINC rental subsidies, but thousands more are caught in a state of limbo as they struggle to find a landlord who will accept the vouchers.

It isn’t just frustrating for homeless families to be turned away by landlords – it’s also illegal. New York City law explicitly prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of lawful source of income, including rental subsidies. (If you believe that you have experienced this type of housing discrimination, please call the Fair Housing Justice Center at (212) 400-8201 or toll free at 1-866-350-FHJC.)

Apart from the continually tightening housing market in New York, one reason landlords are illegally denying families with LINC vouchers is that a previous rental subsidy program called Advantage, which offered only short-term assistance, was abruptly discontinued by the Bloomberg administration – a move that hurt both participating landlords and the 8,500 Advantage families that returned to the shelter system after the subsidy expired. As a result, de Blasio inherited historic levels of homelessness. The LINC program is a vast improvement over the flawed Advantage program in that it offers five years of rental assistance, but many landlords continue to resist – and homeless families suffer the consequences.

Jessica Schneider of CBS New York reported on the challenge of finding a landlord willing to accept LINC:

Yolanda and Mark Williford have been pounding the New York City pavement for four months now.

“We want our own apartment, where we can go home to our own apartment,” Mark Williford said.

“I’m hurting. I’m very hurt,” said Yolanda Williford. “I’m destroyed.”

The Willifords keep a list of brokers they have talked with, and apartments they are interested in. But they are still living in a homeless shelter.

“All we want is somebody to tell us on the phone. ‘Yes,’” Mark Williford said. “That’s all we need.”

They even have a voucher for $1,268, as part of a city program called LINC – short for Living in Communities. Under the program, the city guarantees landlords a monthly payment.

But the Willifords cannot convince even one landlord to rent to them – and they’re not alone.