Today’s Read: Poor Families to Get More Help With Rent From New York State

In a tremendous victory for low-income families, New York State has reached a settlement to substantially increase the monthly rent subsidies for households in the Family Eviction Prevention Supplement program. FEPS, which serves approximately 10,000 families with children, failed to adequately cover the cost of housing because subsidy levels were frozen in 2004. As rents citywide increased steeply, more families faced the prospect of eviction and subsequent homelessness. Eviction remains a leading cause of record homelessness, and preventing homelessness through rent subsidies is considerably less expensive than paying for emergency shelter. In addition to raising subsidy levels and thereby enabling more families to remain stably housed, the settlement will also expand FEPS to domestic violence households and consolidate the current State and City FEPS programs, which had different eligibility criteria and amounts.

The settlement will have a dramatic impact on thousands of families struggling to pay rent, but countless others remain at risk of homelessness due to woefully inadequate public assistance shelter allowances. The State should take the next step in addressing the rampant housing affordability crisis by making this available to help all New Yorkers on public assistance who are at risk of homelessness or who have already lost their homes. Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi’s Home Stability Support proposal would accomplish just that, by establishing a statewide rent subsidy for public assistance households facing eviction, homelessness, or loss of housing due to domestic violence or hazardous conditions. You can add your name to the growing list of New Yorkers endorsing this socially and fiscally responsible solution: Please sign our petition calling on Governor Cuomo to support HSS.

Nikita Stewart wrote about the FEPS settlement in The New York Times:

The public assistance program, known as the Family Eviction Prevention Supplement, has remained flat since it was established in 2004, even as rents have skyrocketed. Under the settlement, a family of three eligible for $850 per month, for example, would now be eligible for $1,515, a 78 percent increase.

The increase, which could go into effect as early as April, was agreed to on Monday and settled a lawsuit filed in December 2015 by four single mothers — two in the Bronx, one on Staten Island and one in Manhattan. The women 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. Represented by the Legal Aid Society and Hughes Hubbard & Reed, the women were seeking increases in the Family Eviction Prevention Supplement for families with children who are under the threat of eviction and another benefit, known as the “shelter allowance,” for families with children on public assistance.

The settlement stops short of increasing the basic shelter allowance, which is $400 for a family of three, but focuses on families in imminent danger of losing their housing by greatly increasing the subsidies and expanding eligibility for the program. The program is currently restricted to families with minor children who have been sued by a landlord. Now, victims of domestic violence will be included, even if they are not in court.

The new eviction prevention subsidy will put a “substantial dent” in homelessness, Kenneth R. Stephens, a supervising lawyer with the Legal Aid Society, said in an interview. “It is probably the first real positive proposal on a scale that’s consistent with the crisis that we’re facing,” he said.