Legal Aid Society attorney talks changes to Family Eviction Prevention Supplement program at Kings County Housing Court Bar meeting
Housing Court Bar lawyers meet Brooklyn’s new judges
Susan Bahn, a senior staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society was the guest speaker at this month’s meeting of the Kings County Housing Court Bar Association (KCHCBA) in Downtown Brooklyn on Thursday where she discussed changes to a public assistance program designed to help families avoid eviction.
“Right now there is such a homelessness crisis that the city is trying to keep people in their homes,” Bahn said. “One of the things that they are doing for some people was this program that would come in and provide a subsidy, but it wasn’t indexed for inflation.”
The city recently agreed to a settlement that will affect the Family Eviction Prevention Supplement (FEPS), a program that was established in 2004 and has failed to keep up with increasing rents. As a result of that settlement, FEPS will be changed to the Family Homelessness Eviction Prevention Supplement (FHEPS) which will have slightly different eligibility requirements and significantly increased funding.
“We’ve amended the complaint to be a class action and we’ve agreed not to sue the state within five years,” Bahn said. “In return the state has agreed to index the new rent supplement that will be given to the families.”
Under the old program, a family of three that was eligible for $850 per month are now eligible for $1,515 per month. The program will also be index which means that it will increase with inflation. Bahn said that the new program could start as early as May, but it might not be ready until July.
“The earliest would be May,” Bahn said. “It might be June or July. In the interim, you might want to adjourn a case or we’ll try to get City FEPS in the interim.”
Bahn also came to discuss Home Stability Support (HSS), a program proposed by Queens Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi that is similar to FHEPS, but would have even more aid and it would be extended to singles. HSS would bridge the current shelter allowance and 85 percent of the fair market rent and would give local districts the option to further raise the supplement to 100 percent.
“We have seen is that many families were able to get on these programs and stabilize themselves,” Bahn said. “I’ve seen many kids and many moms go to college and get jobs and get off of welfare because they have the stability of the rent being paid. The state has really liked the program too because it has been a stabilizing factor and a good way to get poor families back to work.”
The meeting also provided members of the KCHCBA to meet with some of the newer judges in the housing court, Hon. Julie Poley and Hon. Frances Ortiz. Hon. Kevin McClanahan, who is returning following a brief sting in the Bronx, was also in attendance along with Hon. Cheryl J. Gonzales, Hon. Ingrid Joseph, Hon. Gary F. Marton and Hon. Harriet Thompson.
“It’s informal, but we like to get as many of the judges to come to our meetings as we can,” said KCHCBA President Michael Rosenthal. “It’s good because it gives us an opportunity to get to hear about any issues that they might be seeing or perhaps there is something that we’re seeing that they were unaware of.”
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