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NYCHA, State Agency Sued For Discrimination Related To Pandemic Funds

A lawsuit says that NYCHA and the New York Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance blocked many NYCHA residents from getting rental assistance during the pandemic.
Marcy Houses.

Fordham Law School’s Housing and Urban Law Clinic filed a class action lawsuit against the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and the New York Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), on behalf of low-income Black and Hispanic renters who were eligible for federal rental assistance during the pandemic but were told not to apply or did not receive assistance based on how funds were distributed. 

State law administered by the OTDA de-prioritized public housing residents and recipients of subsidized housing from getting rental assistance through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program during the pandemic, which caused many renters to fall behind in their rent, or lose their housing completely, according to a news release about the lawsuit.

As of April 2024, only 15,000 NYCHA families have been approved for assistance, despite there being closer to 70,000 families who have fallen behind on rent during and following the pandemic. NYCHA is currently filing consumer debt cases and other civil court proceedings against these households that were harmed by OTDA and NYCHA’s discriminatory actions, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit is seeking an injunction pausing NYCHA’s evictions and lawsuits for back rent, damages for the immense suffering endured by Black and Hispanic renters because of these policies and an order to ensure future housing assistance programs properly comply with discrimination law.  

“Tenants nationwide received crucial rental assistance during the pandemic, but thousands of Black and Hispanic public housing residents in New York were wrongfully blocked from receiving the help they deserved,” said Professor Norrinda Brown, director of the clinic. “They are still experiencing brutal impacts, and now they are seeking justice.”

Fordham Law students Alex Israel, Deanna Bassaragh, Sydney Katz and Talia Rubin are leading the litigation effort. They represent three plaintiffs, who are all women of color, as well as Residents to Preserve Public Housing (RPPH), a collective organization of tenants who reside in public housing across the five boroughs of New York City.