“As soon as I said, this is what I have, this is what my income is, immediately they said, ‘Oh no, I can’t handle that,'” she said.
It wasn’t until early 2021, when she enlisted the help of a lawyer at the Legal Aid Society, a nonprofit, that she was finally able to find an apartment that would take her voucher after the group helped her file a discrimination complaint with the city.
Fannie Lou Diane, 44, an activist with Neighbors Together and Unlock NYC, both nonprofits that focus on housing issues, said it’s been about three years since she was evicted from her Bronx apartment in 2019 to find a place who would take her voucher.
“I’ve had a lot of realtors tell me the reason they don’t want to hire people with CityFHEPS vouchers is because of the stigma attached to them – historical stigmas of laziness, not wanting to work, not taking care of their apartments, not taking care of their children,” she said.
Even when tenants face difficulties applying, landlords and real estate agents say they are frustrated by inefficiency and program delays.
Sarah Saltzberg, an owner of Bohemia Realty Group, which brokers real estate and rentals in New York City, said programs like CityFHEPS require landlords to meet complex inspection standards — for example, a certain amount of counter space or square footage in a bedroom — that homes for sometimes narrowly disqualify voucher holders.
It could also take several months to complete the paperwork, she said, meaning tenants will stay in shelters while landlords miss out on potential rent payments, if they choose to wait at all rather than find another tenant. Many landlords and brokers don’t know all the rules to meet the requirements of the voucher program, she said, adding that the city should work to revamp the system with input from tenants, landlords and brokers.
“It so often feels like we’re unpredictable, and I just don’t know why it has to feel that way,” she said.
Andy Newman reporting contributed.