Barron Decries Housing Subsidy Axe

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[New York]

Homeless rights advocates joined New York City Councilmember Charles Barron yesterday to denounce a state judge’s ruling allowing the city to dump a subsidy program affecting thousands of formerly homeless residents.

On the front steps of City Hall, Barron decried New York Supreme Court Justice Judith Gische’s conclusion that the Bloomberg administration can terminate the Advantage Work Program, which helped more than 16,000 homeless
people transition from temporary shelters to permanent housing using city, state and federal funds.

In the decision, which was handed down Tuesday, Gische ruled that the Advantage program was not a binding social contract between the city and the tenants, but rather a social benefit program, so the city can use its discretion to keep or terminate it.

“That’s legal gobbledygook,” said Barron in front of City Hall Thursday afternoon. “This is a moral, legally binding contract.”

The councilmember spoke as two activists behind him held up a banner that read “Picture the Homeless,” the name of a homeless rights advocacy group that was in attendance.

Barron lambasted Mayor Bloomberg, saying the program’s annual cost of $140 million is only a tiny fraction of the city’s $66 billion budget.

Lynn Lewis of Picture the Homeless, the homeless rights group, told the crowd that the city had more alternatives than it was using.

“Fixing up these empty buildings and lots would create good jobs and create housing,” said Lewis. “Who’s living in those empty NYCHA apartments? Homeless families used to have a priority for NYCHA apartments.”

Lewis says temporary shelters cost three to four times more than permanent housing subsidies do.

The decision will affect more than 16,000 people who rely on Advantage subsidies, according to a statement Barron released.

Judge Gische’s decision came in the wake of a heated legal battle. In March of this year, the city was prepared to cut the Advantage program, which provides at least one year of rent support for qualified renters, but the Legal Aid Society of New York won a court order requiring the city to pay the program participants’ rent in April.

The program stopped accepting new applications in April 2011.

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