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NYC housing voucher program focus of recent lawsuit

"Nah."

That was the quick -- and ill-advised -- answer given by an employee of a New York City landlord described as "notorious" in a recent media report in response to a query posed by a caller asking if that building owner accepted Section 8 housing vouchers as payments for rental properties.

The correct response should have been something like this: "Yes, we do, as required under the law."

The caller in that telephone exchange was an advocate with the Fair Housing Justice Center, posing as a prospective low-income renter. The apartment complex was targeted because of existing complaints against the landlord for circumventing his legal duty to accept Section 8 vouchers as rent subsidies. Reportedly, the landlord's employee answering the call stated that "the owners" set the policy regarding acceptance or denial of Section 8 payments, and his owner didn't wish to participate in the program.

That was a mistake. The subsidy program, which was established decades ago by the New York City Housing Authority, is operated under the aegis of the NYCHA and with a legal mandate that landlords consider the vouchers in the same manner as they would cash or a personal check. The New York City Department of Housing, Preservation and Development (HPD) and New York State Department of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) also operate their own Section 8 programs.

That means as lawful income, and not as a funding source that is within any landlord's discretion to reject.

The above-cited landlord, who had the dubious distinction of attaining top-rung status on a recent compilation of the city's "worst landlord list," will now answer regarding his Section 8 philosophy and tenant rejections as a defendant in a lawsuit recently filed in Manhattan Supreme Court.

The tenant filing that complaint states that the landlord refused to accept her voucher as payment toward her apartment rental at a Bronx residential building.