Giving Back

Booker, Family Promise Join Forces to Fight Unfair Tenant 'Blacklisting' Practices

aff55d1ad014e5998307_d3c4b2cf09e8f9298cdf_IMG_5256__1280x800_.jpg
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) meets with tenants and housing advocates to discuss legislation.
a477861041e062197a8a_f5a23ddb48bd0a8ec808_IMG_5250__1280x755_.jpg
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) speaks with tenant Yanira Cortez.
aff55d1ad014e5998307_d3c4b2cf09e8f9298cdf_IMG_5256__1280x800_.jpg

SUMMIT, NJ - Time is running out for Ada Lopez.

Ada has always been an attentive mother to her two teen-aged daughters and a hard worker—until recently, she held two jobs to support her family. But last year she became sick and unable to work. When she couldn’t meet her bills, she lost her apartment, eventually finding shelter at Summit-based Family Promise’s Union County Program (FPUC). 

While in the program, she was approved for a Section 8 voucher. According to HUD.gov, the housing choice voucher program -- often referred to as 'Section 8' -- is the federal government's major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market. Since housing assistance is provided on behalf of the family or individual, participants are able to find their own housing, including single-family homes, townhouses and apartments.

Sign Up for E-News

The participant is free to choose any housing that meets the requirements of the program and is not limited to units located in subsidized housing projects.

Housing choice vouchers are administered locally by public housing agencies (PHAs). The PHAs receive federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to administer the voucher program.

A family that is issued a housing voucher is responsible for finding a suitable housing unit of the family's choice where the owner agrees to rent under the program. This unit may include the family's present residence. Rental units must meet minimum standards of health and safety, as determined by the PHA.

A housing subsidy is paid to the landlord directly by the PHA on behalf of the participating family. The family then pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program. Under certain circumstances, if authorized by the PHA, a family may use its voucher to purchase a modest home.

Ada assumed the voucher would be the key to helping her find a new place to live. After all, she’s had a long history of employment. She’s never received cash assistance or welfare. She’s never had any trouble with the law. 

But she has discovered that finding a home is not so simple. Since she began looking for a new place to live, she has been unable to find a landlord willing to rent to her. Despite the fact that she can afford subsidized housing, an eviction from years ago that is still on her record, coupled with her current difficulties, has caused Ada’s name to show up on tenant screening reports, effectively blacklisting her from signing a new lease. 

Ada, accompanied by FPUC Executive Director Geleen Donovan, got the chance to tell her story to U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) when he met recently with housing advocates and tenants to discuss legislation he is introducing to address the issue of tenant 'blacklisting' -- landlords using credit reports from third-party reporting agencies as a legal means to discriminate against potential tenants.

These screening agencies are largely unregulated under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and, as such, lack restrictions that would ensure their fairness and accuracy. Not only would the bill prevent agencies from reporting on issues that are more than three years old, it also protects tenants living in homes with health and safety issues who have legally withheld rent to force their landlords to make the necessary repairs. Currently, even if a tenant prevails against their landlord in a court of law, they are often still added to these screening reports and find themselves blackballed by prospective landlords.

“I got the voucher but now I can’t find an apartment. No one will rent to me,” said Lopez, whose voucher expires August 15.

“Under no circumstance should a tenant fear discrimination for simply standing up for their right to safe and sustainable housing,” said Booker, who is hoping to find Republicans to co-sponsor his bill in Congress. “For far too long, landlords could utilize tenant-screening reports as a means to target low-income tenants and prevent access to quality and affordable housing. This bill takes important steps to reform tenant-screening practices by preventing landlords from unfairly penalizing tenants and providing tenants the necessary protections to ensure a fair and equitable screening process.”

Claas Ehlers, President of Family Promise, spoke of the need for tenant protections. “This legislation would be a major victory for low-income renters like the many families we serve, who are faced with an extremely limited number of housing options. It simply asks that people be treated fairly and holds the companies that profit off of low-income renters accountable. We believe this will have a significant impact in giving more families and individuals the opportunity for adequate and sustainable housing they deserve. We applaud Senator Booker for leading this effort.”

Family Promise Union County’s Donovan, who works with families like Ada’s on a daily basis, is a staunch defender of the legislation.

“Most of the families entering our shelter program are there due to unforeseen circumstances, such as illness, the loss of a job, or the loss of reliable transportation. The recent proliferation of tenant screening companies has made access to housing even more difficult. The companies advise landlords not to rent to anyone who has had an eviction in their past—whether or not there was a judgment, and regardless of how many years ago it took place,” she said.  “Our families are not high-risk tenants; they work hard to rebuild their lives and this bill will provide the relief necessary to secure housing.”

 

 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Plainfield

You Meet the Most Amazing People on the Trail

The weather cooperated this weekend, so I went for more than one hike. After all, there are only just over fifty days before my walk to Maine commences, so why not.

This Saturday, some friends dragged me away from housecleaning (thank you!) for a quick jaunt through Watchung Reservation.  While we were there, we ran into two individuals from Westfield; the cosplayers introduced themselves ...

Go Take a Walk

Friday, March 30 was Take a Walk in the Park Day, so I did.  I really didn't have an excuse to not do so; the sun was shining, I had the day off, and I had no plans for the rest of the day.  So after a session with Abbe, my trainer at LifeTime Fitness, I made the short trip to Lake Surprise in Watchung Reservation. 

As I made my way around the lake, it was easy to see how ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_03f7e31b319ddd115b05_may_children_room

Tue, May 22, 3:30 PM

Plainfield Public Library, Plainfield

Bilingual Storytime with Ms. Jai

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_394a14c9117b8172a93e_storymakers

Tue, May 22, 4:00 PM

Plainfield Public Library, Plainfield

Story Makers

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_2d97227681417166ce99_block_assoc_meeting

Tue, May 22, 6:30 PM

Plainfield

Block Association Meeting

Holy Savior Cheerleading Squad Takes Season by 'Storm'

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Holy Savior Academy’s (HSA) ‘Biddy’ Cheerleading Squad, the Storm,  recently completed their 2017-2018 season with a first place win in their division at Cheerfest. Held May 12 at Six Flags Great Adventure, the annual multi-state competition featured teams from throughout New Jersey. 

“This cheer season has been such an ...

County of Union to Fly Rainbow Flag for the First Time on June 4

May 21, 2018

UNION COUNTY, NJ - The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders is proud to announce that the rainbow flag will fly for the first time at the Union County Courthouse in recognition of June as LGBTQ Pride Month. A public Pride Flag Raising Ceremony event is planned for Monday, June 4 at 1:00 P.M. on the steps of the historic Union County Courthouse on Broad Street in ...

Peru Claims 1-0 Victory Over Colombia as Soccer Legends Show Off Skills in Paterson

May 20, 2018

PATERSON, NJ- During their playing days Carlos Valderama and Julio Uribe led their teams to victory in some of the largest soccer stadiums across the globe. On Saturday, the men, known better as “El Pibe” and Uribe, brought their talents to Paterson’s Baurele Field.

The rain did nothing to dampen the spirits of the nearly 500 fans who turned out to watch these beloved players ...

La campaña alimentaria anual de los carteros está lista para el 12 de mayo en todo el país

May 11, 2018

WASHINGTON, 2 de mayo de 2018 /PRNewswire-HISPANIC PR WIRE/ -- La Asociación Nacional de Carteros (National Association of Letter Carriers, NALC) llevará a cabo la 26ª edición anual de su campaña alimentaria el sábado 12 de mayo.

La campaña alimentaria Stamp Out Hunger® es la más grande con duración de un día en todo ...

School’s Out: Your Exclusive Summer Getaway Guide

May 22, 2018

Summer... a time to do whatever you please without having the stress of school or work.

But like many others, you may find yourself unsure of how to spend your summer days. So, if you’re looking for something cool to do when it’s hot, consider these ideas:

Get Cultured: Metropolitan Museum of Art: If you’re fascinated with art of all sorts from classic to modern, then this ...

TAPinto Featured Franchisee: Steve Lenox of TAPinto Paterson

This week's feature will focus on TAPinto Paterson's franchisee, Steve Lenox. Find out how the current owner of a public affairs firm went from a former State Director for Senator Frank Lautenberg to a proud TAPinto franchisee for New Jersey's third largest city.

 

Q. When did you join TAPinto.net?

I joined TAPinto.net in September, ...

'Turning Off the Morning News' brings comic twist

‘Turning Off the Morning News’ tackles today’s issues with a comic twist

By Liz Keill

PRINCETON, N J – Despite the late night comics, no one quite captures the insanity of the political/social status world like Christopher Durang.

His latest play, “Turning off the Morning News” hit the ground running.  John Pankow as Jimmy addresses the audience, ...

'To Kill a Mockingbird' Sustains Timeless Appeal

SUMMIT, NJ – The Summit Playhouse provides a stellar production of a much loved classic, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The Harper Lee novel, later a Gregory Peck film and now a stage production, retains all the warmth, intensity and integrity that made it such an appealing hit in the 1960s. And there will be a new production on Broadway in December with a script by Aaron Sorkin ...

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin's Press, 2018)

            What is the “final frontier” on the Earth's surface? Many people would say Alaska, the 49th state, which was added to the United States fifty years ago. Once one has traveled to that remote land, it is impossible to forget the magnificence of the terrain and beasts. Floating by ship in Glacier Bay, surrounded by ...

The Man in Room 306 at the Luna Stage, West Orange, NJ

            The Luna Stage, a Jersey theater gem, chose to revive its 1995 world premiere drama, The Man in Room 306, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the slaying of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Starring Jamil A.C. Mangan as Dr. King, this 90 minute production portrays Dr. King in the last hours of his life as he struggles to write a speech for the Poor ...

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins (Riverhead Books, 2017)

 

I wanted to like Into the Water by Paula Hawkins because I had enjoyed her previous novel, The Girl on the Train, which was a suspenseful thriller. However, when I finished reading the first part of the Into the Water, I realized that I had not absorbed anything that was happening in the story. I blamed myself for not paying ...

Retro Review: Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo

Retro Review: Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo (Citadel Press, 1970)

 

How does a reviewer do justice to a book called “the great American novel”? I first read Johnny Got His Gun during the Viet Nam war, when young people, nationwide, were protesting fighting in a war that was a senseless waste of life; a war in which the United States had no business participating.

The Truth About My Reading

The Truth About My Reading

I didn't get my Composition and Literature teacher at Montclair State College at all. A crusty old man with a dour disposition, Mr. Smith always seemed angry and rude. He appropriately intimidated freshmen, even me, an English major, who found this common core course beneath my dignity. Frankly, as a graduate of Highland Park High School, and a survivor of Mrs.

The German Girl

The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa (Washington Square Press, 2016)

For each of the twelve million victims murdered during World War II there is a gutwrenching story to be told. I have read hundreds of memoirs, biographies, plays, and novels that recount the stories of the martyrs; some are exceptional, some are fair. The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa, an award-winning journalist, ...