Advocates Urge Gov. Hochul to Sign Rental Subsidy Increase for Lowest Income Families

Originally published in City Limits

The New York Legislature passed a bill in June to increase the value of the state’s FHEPS rental subsidy program to fair market rent—$2,026 for a two-bedroom in New York City. But the governor has yet to sign the legislation, which will get automatically vetoed by the end of the year if she doesn’t act on it.

Ilham Awwad and her 5-year-old son have gone two years without heat or gas inside their Mott Haven apartment. During that time, housing officials documented mold in her unit, and a chunk of bathroom ceiling fell on her neck and left her with bulging discs in her spine. 

Facing legal action, the building owner has filed for bankruptcy and a trustee plans to sell, rather than make repairs to address hundreds of housing violations.

Awwad wants out. The problem, she says, is that she cannot find a place she can afford with her Family Homelessness and Eviction Protection Supplement (FHEPS) subsidy. The state rental assistance program acts as a supplement to the meager cash assistance shelter allowance but caps the total value at 85 percent of fair market rent, the equivalent of $1,323 for a two-person family. That’s lower than the median rent in every neighborhood in New York City and a deal that’s hard to come by. Awwad knows—she has been applying for apartments for four years, she said.