MANHATTAN (CN) – More than 16,000 formerly homeless people lost a class action against New York City for defunding the Advantage rental-assistance program.
The city, state and federal government each contributed one-third of the funding for the Advantage Program, which aimed to transition formerly homeless tenants to permanent housing.
The state withdrew its support earlier this year, followed shortly afterward by federal funds.
New York City ended Advantage on April 1, leading the Legal Aid Society to file a class action on behalf of the participants.
Justice Judith Gische with the presided over a five-day bench trial at the state Supreme Court in late June and early July. The Manhattan-based court ruled in favor of the city on Wednesday, saying the defendants have the right to terminate any social-benefit program, “no matter how laudable its goals.”
The Department of Homeless Services praised the ruling in a statement. “We are gratified that Judge Gische has agreed that Legal Aid’s attempt to require city taxpayers to pay the full cost of Advantage was misguided,” Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond said. “At a time of extremely limited resources, Legal Aid’s lawsuit has forced the city to spend nearly $80 million continuing a program for which the state eliminated funding.”
Diamond then criticized the state for making those cuts.
“While the state’s decision to eliminate Advantage was the wrong policy decision, we will continue to move forward in supporting homeless families in their effort to gain employment and move out of shelter,” he added.
Legal Aid Society attorney Steven Banks vowed to appeal. “By winning, the city loses” Banks said in a statement, noting that “thousands of formerly homeless families and individuals are at risk of losing their homes and flooding the shelter system.”