12,000-Unit Bronx Housing Complex Must Accept Housing Vouchers, Judge Rules 

The decision Friday marks the first time a New York court has ruled that minimum-income policies for people with full-rent subsidies violate city and state laws, said Housing Works senior attorney Armen Merjian, who represented the family trying to get into the Parkchester housing complex.

Adi Talwar

Fountains in front of the Parkchester apartment complex in The Bronx.

A 12,000-unit Bronx housing complex could soon open to homeless applicants with city-issued rental vouchers after a state judge on Friday ordered the owner to accept a family it had locked out by “irrational” and discriminatory income eligibility rules.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Richard Latin sided with a 34-year-old mother of two who sued the owners of Parkchester in the eastern Bronx after she was denied an apartment because she did not earn at least $62,000 a year, even though the CityFHEPS voucher she received from the Department of Social Services (DSS) would cover the full rent. The woman, who has been sleeping on the floor of a friend’s one-bedroom Parkchester apartment with her 1- and 5-year-old children, said an income that high would have made her ineligible for a voucher in the first place.

It is a violation of the city’s human rights law for landlords to deny apartments to applicants because they use government subsidies to pay their rent. The practice, known as Source of Income (SOI) discrimination, is one of the most common forms of housing discrimination in the city, though rarely enforced. The decision Friday marks the first time a New York court has ruled that minimum-income policies for people with full-rent subsidies violate city and state laws, said Housing Works senior attorney Armen Merjian, who represented the family trying to get into Parkchester.

“This decision echoes what every other court and human rights commission to examine this issue has said, which is that it is illegal to impose a minimum income requirement upon those with a full voucher and thus no rent share,” Merjian said.

On Friday, Latin ordered Parkchester to process the woman’s application and either give her an apartment or place her on a waitlist if a unit was not available. “This is exactly the type of case that injunctive relief is meant for,” he wrote. “The brutality of homelessness is too great a risk.”

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