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“It’s not fair,” a single father said. “Landlords assume you’re a drug addict or something just because you’re using a housing voucher to pay rent. They treat you like you’re less than human when you mention you have a Section 8 voucher.”

“Even though I had a perfectly legal way to pay my rent,” a mother told the Commission on Human Rights, “I kept getting turned down by landlords which was degrading for me and my daughter. With no place to live, we ended up in the shelter system. It was really depressing and I kept thinking this was a reflection of who I was, even though I knew it wasn’t true.”

These are just a two of many stories the NYC Commission on Human Rights has heard from New Yorkers who have been unfairly turned away from housing because of how they pay their rent or security deposit. In New York City, this practice is illegal under the NYC Human Rights Law.

Landlords and brokers cannot refuse to take people’s government assistance or housing vouchers toward the payment of rent or security deposits, nor can they reject tenants by telling them “they don’t earn enough income” to meet their income requirement.

This form of housing discrimination is called lawful source of income discrimination. It’s illegal and shameful, robbing vulnerable individuals and families of housing when they need it the most, which is why the NYC Commission on Human Rights is aggressively cracking down on landlords and brokers who break the law.

Every current or prospect tenant in New York City with federal, state, or local public or housing assistance — including Section 8, Living in Communities (LINC), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA), Family Eviction Prevention Subsidy (FEPS), Special Exit and Prevention Supplement (SEPS), Veterans’ GI Bill, and Advantage program vouchers, among others — is entitled by law to use their assistance toward the payment of rent. Security deposits and one-time emergency grants, which help people who can’t meet an expense due to an unexpected situation or event, are also protected under the Law.

The city’s assistance programs, which are part of Mayor de Blasio’s broader effort to get people into permanent housing, have helped more than 55,000 New Yorkers transition from shelters to permanent housing or avoid shelters altogether. The Commission has doubled down on its enforcement efforts to make sure that every person in NYC with a voucher or government assistance can use it to pay rent.

Last year, the commission fined one management company operating more than 500 units citywide with a record $100,000 civil penalty for refusing to show a prospective tenant an apartment after he revealed he had a Section 8 voucher. This month, the commission fined another landlord $33,000 in civil penalties and directed the landlord to pay the prospective tenant emotional distress damages for rejecting the tenant’s security voucher, a move that left the tenant homeless for months.

The commission has also revitalized its testing program to root out source of income discrimination. The program recently uncovered evidence leading to charges against large landlords and brokers controlling 20,000 units citywide.

The stakes are just too high for tenants and families seeking a safe and affordable place to live. Rejecting a tenant because of how they pay their rent is humiliating experience with dire consequences, leaving many with few or no other housing options.

Unfortunately, many New Yorkers don’t know they are protected by the Law, which is why the commission is hosting its Fifth Annual Fair Housing Symposium this week to educate people their rights and how to file a claim when they experience lawful source of income discrimination and tenant harassment. The commission also just released this fact sheet on housing voucher discrimination to clarify protections.

Everyone in this city deserves a place to live. Tenants who receive government assistance just want a roof over their head like every other renter in this city. We can and must do better to ensure that every New Yorker in need of housing can access it. It’s the law, but it’s also the right thing to do.

* * * *
Carmelyn P. Malalis is the Commissioner and Chair of the New York City Commission on Human Rights, the agency charged with enforcing and educating on the New York City Human Rights Law.

If you or someone you know experiences or witness discrimination, call 311 and ask for Human Rights or the Commission directly at 718-722-3131. Learn more about source of income discrimination at

9 thoughts on “CityViews: Tenants with Housing Vouchers Deserve a Roof Over Their Head

  1. The current Administration and Republicans in Congress have no intention to continue using taxpayer dollars to pay people’s rent. HUD funding has been cut every year since 2005, have none of these voucher people paid attention to that? Currently the government is running on continuing resolutions, so everything is on 2016 numbers. They are not even working on a 2017 budget and President Trump released his 2018 budget which will cut 6 billion from HUD next year. Housing Authorities in Texas and other states are already rescinding vouchers as I write this. There will not be any new funding for vouchers, in fact Section 8 probably won’t even exist in four years. This is the reality, if you don’t have a voucher, you are never going to get one, if you have one, you have a very good chance of losing it withing a year. Landlords are not accepting them because they don’t want their properties filled with people who can’t pay the rent if their voucher is rescinded, and can you blame them. Make some backup plans people, because its the end of the line for Section 8 and HUD

    • This story has two sides. Although I feel for the two people in the story, I knew someone who kept getting new apartments with her Section 8. She would like in the apartment and not pay her share of the rent (because section 8 didn’t pay the whole thing). She would end up getting evicted every time. She would end up in the shelter system and then get another apartment and the same thing would happen. It costs the landlords money to take people to court to evict them. In a way I don’t blame them. There has to be a better way.

  2. I too am having a hard time finding an apartment, I have Section 8 & working
    And it seems like everywhere I go or sites I visit don’t want Section 8….
    I lost my 2bdrm apartment due to a fire that started in the basement of the building and i’ve been staying place to place sense
    It’seems so depressing and stressful.

  3. I too am having the same problem with my voucher. A lot of landlords & brokers are telling me they don’t accept vouchers. I’ve been living in a shelter since my apartment building had a fire back in 2011. Now i might be losing my Housing SEPS voucher due to the fact that i stay in a HPD shelter instead of a DHS shelter. Now im stuck not knowing what’s going to happen next. I’m hoping the apartment interview i went on a week ago accepts my voucher before it expires. Please someone help me!

  4. Pingback: The NYC Commission on Human Rights is cracking down on landlords, –

  5. Its so heartbreaking to know I’m not alone i have section 8 vouchet n stay in a sheler with my son i see so many apartment going up n have applied I’m so depressed lost weight i voted for our Mayor i didnt ask to b homeless my landlord needed to move his family in what do i do now the brokers n landlord I’ve seen want up front money my case manager is trying while I’m lost SOMEBODY please help me the immigrant have priority i dont see any in these shelters I’m ashamed of NewYork they don’t take care of their own

  6. Also, too many of the landlords have had bad experiences whereby tenants did not meet their responsibility in paying their portion of the rent on time. On the other hand, they must learn to treat each case on a case by case basis. Landlords and rental property managers also need to be educated on the different programs that they are, and do not assume because one program has failed that means the other one is the same. For instance, LINC failed, so most landlords are not taking SEPS.

  7. I left NYC and moved upstate. Plenty of places accept vouchers in Rochester. You may have the consider porting out your voucher to another city.

  8. I feel for you guys. Get together and know your rights and the laws…and use Legal aid or someone on Facebook might be able to guide you via their exoeriences. Share your story with your docs and workmates and anyone who has been there with a story of their own. This is a serious issue and if you firm a type if suppirt group sokution finding effort, your spirit gets a lift. This is a situation where help and need can be shared and new friendships developed. Maybe even a roommate? Or a sitter? Or just a social connection where you study the laws together and add to your list of resources. ..or places to go to together and be each other ‘s witness to the abuse.
    Fighting this alone is the second worst thing next to being homeless. You never know what connections will do. Be careful….and use your instincts like mice do…they always find somewhere to live.
    And the more you use your voice and have these conversations in a safe public forum, the greater the chances for SOMETHING really good happening. LIKE OEOPLE WHO JOB HUNT TOGETHER. USE your local media and maybe someone at a television station would interview you and make an awareness story out of your situations.
    Not everyone can get it, but some will. So don’t be hard on yourself and KNOW you will be successful, eventually.
    Hang in there. Shelters are hard.
    U Don’t know how hard until you are there. Every landlord should do one once a year… right??
    Everyone has some responsibility here….we take a lot for granted with having a place…SO ALL THE REST OF YOU…REMEMBER THAT AND TELL YOUR LANDLORD, “ thank you”.

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