Mayor proposes restoring unstaffed voucher discrimination unit

Unit's final employee departed last month; plan would merely shift staff

Mayor of New York City Eric Adams (iStock/Adams via Paul Dilakian)
Mayor of New York City Eric Adams (iStock/Adams via Paul Dilakian)

The New York City Human Rights Commission’s Source of Income Unit lost its last employee. Mayor Eric Adams’ executive budget aims to bring some back.

The administration is proposing a six-person enforcement team be shifted from the Human Resources Administration, City Limits reported. The HRA unit does similar work, but it’s not clear if the new team would be tasked with the same mission as the stripped-down Source of Income team.

A spokesperson confirmed to City Limits that HRA and the Human Rights Commission are discussing enforcement related to source-of-income discrimination.

The commission’s anti-discrimination unit slowly fell apart in recent months. The unit had six staffers three years ago, but was down to three as of last year. In April, an attorney resigned, leaving it empty.

The Source of Income unit plays an important role in enforcing the effectiveness of housing vouchers. It records complaints, intervenes in conflicts and sometimes files lawsuits when prospective renters face discrimination when using a government subsidy, such as Section 8 or CityFHEPS.

Discrimination on the basis of government subsidies is the most common form of illegal housing bias in New York City, according to the Human Rights Commission.

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Staff and attorneys from other units of the agency jumped in to take some cases as the unit diminished. A commission spokesperson told City Limits that the unit is now staffed, but declined to say by how many people.

The unit’s importance seemed to be growing before it was essentially scuttled. It filed 27 complaints on behalf of tenants during the 2020 fiscal year and 28 in the 2021 fiscal year. From this past July through March, however, the unit had already filed more complaints than in either of the past two years.

The Human Rights Commission also made a move to cut 18 empty positions as part of the administration’s push to lower costs. City Limits reported the City Council’s budget response called for all of those positions to be restored.

The subsidy for an individual was raised to $2,218 and for a family of four to $2,527 earlier this month, new voucher values that took effect following a law last year designed to help subsidies keep up with housing costs.

[City Limits] — Holden Walter-Warner