Opening Acts: April 4, 2017

Bronx Landlord Refuses to Accept Section 8 Housing Vouchers

FHJC Testing Investigation Verified Alleged Source of Income Discrimination

On April 3, 2017, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and Rosalba Tejada Gonzalez, a tenant with disabilities who resides with her adult son at a rental building in the Bronx, filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court for the County of New York alleging that Ms. Gonzalez’s landlord discriminates on the basis of source of income in violation of the New York City Human Rights Law. The lawsuit names Ved Parkash and Parkash 2051 LLC as defendants.

In 2016, Ms. Gonzalez filed a complaint with the FHJC alleging that her landlord refused to accept her federally-funded rental assistance voucher. An undercover testing investigation subsequently conducted by the FHJC not only corroborated the allegations made by Ms. Gonzalez, but additionally yielded evidence that the defendants were refusing to accept federal rental assistance in any of their buildings. Over 2,700 rental units are believed to be controlled by the defendants in New York City. Since 2008, it has been unlawful in the City of New York for landlords who control rental buildings with six or more units to discriminate against tenants because they have a rental subsidy.

The Housing Choice Voucher Program (also known as Section 8), a program of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), provides rental subsidies to low and moderate income families and individuals in the private housing market. The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) administers the largest Housing Choice Voucher Program in the nation, with approximately 90,000 vouchers and over 29,000 owners currently participating in the program. A voucher permits an eligible household to only pay 30% of their income toward the rent for apartments that are within the rent levels allowed by HUD.

According to the complaint, the individual plaintiff, Ms. Gonzalez, who has resided in a Parkash building for 13 years, was awarded a Section 8 voucher in June 2016. The voucher would have covered a portion of her monthly rent so that she would not have to pay all of her rent from her fixed income. When the plaintiff called her landlord to ask if she could use her voucher to pay the rent, she was told that the landlord would not accept her subsidy.

FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg commented, “When landlords who control large numbers of affordable rental units flagrantly violate the law by refusing to consider tenants with rental subsidies, they are directly contributing to homelessness, resulting in a greater financial burden on all New York City taxpayers. In a city where there is a scarcity of affordable rental housing, it is not only illegal, it is unconscionable for a rental housing provider to summarily refuse to accept tenants with rental subsidies.” Freiberg added, “Ms. Gonzalez deserves her day in court and we applaud her for exercising her fair housing rights.”

The plaintiffs are seeking injunctive and declaratory relief to stop the defendant’s discriminatory behavior and to compel the landlord to accept Ms. Gonzalez’s voucher, as well as damages and attorneys’ fees. The plaintiffs are represented by Megan O’Byrne, Kat Meyers, Robert Desir, and Jessica Bellinder of The Legal Aid Society.

The mission of the FHJC, a nonprofit civil rights organization, is to eliminate housing discrimination; promote policies and programs to foster open, accessible, and inclusive communities; and strengthen fair housing enforcement in the New York City region.