By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK, Sept 26 (Reuters) - The New York City Housing
Authority is dragging its feet on helping low-income tenants
find new apartments, forcing many of them to choose between
homelessness or the loss of their federal housing subsidies,
according to a federal class action filed Tuesday by the Legal
The lawsuit, brought in U.S. District Court in Manhattan,
claims that NYCHA routinely takes months to handle requests from
families that are facing eviction, in violation of federal
regulations under the Section 8 housing program. According to
the lawsuit, NYCHA frequently asks tenants for unnecessary
information, further slowing the process.
"These unreasonable delays violate the Housing Act and its
implementing regulations resulting in the de facto termination
of participants from the Section 8 program," the lawsuit said.
NYCHA declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing pending
The lawsuit follows two other federal cases brought by Legal
Aid against NYCHA last fall. The other two, pending in federal
courts in Brooklyn and Manhattan, accuse NYCHA of taking too
long to lower families' rent share after their incomes dropped
and failing to provide adequate documentation when terminating
families from the program.
Section 8 provides subsidies to low-income families that
typically cover the difference between their rent and 30 percent
of their income. The city operates the country's largest Section
8 program, with approximately 230,000 residents living in more
than 90,000 subsidized apartments, according to NYCHA's website.
The lawsuit names three plaintiffs, all women, who claim
their transfer requests were unduly delayed.
Jonelle Shepherd, a single mother with two young children,
claims she has waited for more than a year for NYCHA to process
her transfer request, according to the lawsuit. In the meantime,
Shepherd and her children were evicted and are now staying with
The lawsuit asked the court to find that NYCHA has violated
federal housing law and the 14th Amendment and to require NYCHA
to develop procedures to eliminate the delays and avoid requests
for unnecessary documentation.
The case is Shepherd v. Rhea, U.S. District Court for the
Southern District of New York, No. 12-cv-7220.
For Shepherd: Christopher Harris, Paul Serritella and Gina
Gencarelli of Latham & Watkins; Steven Banks, Adriene Holder,
Ellen Davidson, Judith Goldiner, Sebastian Riccardi and Kathleen
Brennan of the Legal Aid Society.
For NYCHA: New York City Housing Authority Legal Department.
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