Newark mayor points to flaws in NYC program that pays homeless people to leave for cheaper cities

Posted On Thu, February 7, 2019 By

Posted On Thu, February 7, 2019 By In affordable housing, New Jersey, Policy

Photo via Wikimedia

In a statement this week, Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka asked that New York City’s Special One-Time Assistance (SOTA) Program providing homeless shelter residents with free rent for a year if they are willing to leave NYC be re-evaluated due to “serious defects.” A recent investigation by WNYC confirmed that some families ended up in “illegal and uninhabitable” apartments in Newark. As CBS New York reports, Baraka cited the fact that participants were coming to Newark under the program–which pays landlords a year’s worth of rent upfront–and ending up in the aforementioned conditions, then being abandoned to become homeless again when the year was up.


Downtown Newark, NJ. Image: Newark NJ Image: Axel Drainville via Flickr.

As 6sqft reported, the program, introduced in 2017,  pays 12 months of rent upfront for homeless families who find an apartment outside of New York City. The city has previously given out rent subsidies for homeless families to use within the five boroughs, but claims there are not enough apartments for everyone in need. The program, run by the city’s Department of Homeless Services, provides details of eligible apartments and buses to take families from NYC shelters to view them.

Newark’s mayor says the program “does nothing to break the homelessness cycle, but benefits negligent landlords, and makes an already vulnerable population susceptible to being homeless again. When the one year of rents expires, participants are abandoned without support from New York City and left to become dependent upon Newark social services.”

He asked that New York City strengthen the SOTA Program by inspecting apartments in conjunction with Newark city inspectors, giving participants the option to return to New York City and receive shelter and services if they become homeless, moving to monthly payment of rent rather than paying 12 months upfront and providing ongoing support to clients for the duration of the program and beyond if necessary.

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