Union County News

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. Because 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 Aug.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,” he said. “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

Westfield

Plainfield Woman Admits to Animal Cruelty    

June 23, 2018

PLAINFIELD, NJ — A Plainfield resident has admitted responsibility for neglect that resulted in the deaths of multiple puppies, according to both the Union County Prosecutor’s Office and the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

Suzie Bourdouvales, 38, pleaded guilty to two counts of third-degree animal cruelty earlier this week before state Superior ...

Synopsis of Westfield Board of Education Meeting on June 19

June 22, 2018

I opened the Board meeting on a somber note, announcing the death of sophomore student Carthoris ‘Carter’ Uziel.  Words cannot convey the grief we feel in the Westfield Public Schools community over his death.  We extend our condolences to the Uziel family.  I noted that school counselors are available for all students or staff who may wish to discuss their feelings ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_ba23f8d0d41677854e89_spb-4937_newsletter_june_26

Tue, June 26, 7:00 PM

TD Bank Ballpark, Bridgewater

Somerset Patriots vs. New Britain Bees Baseball ...

Sports

Carousel_image_5b249c4a7e6808d9d7bb_spb-4937_newsletter_june_27

Wed, June 27, 7:00 PM

TD Bank Ballpark, Bridgewater

Somerset Patriots vs. New Britain Bees Baseball ...

Sports

Carousel_image_295f5001319d0d50ecf4_spb-4937_newsletter_june_28

Thu, June 28, 7:00 PM

TD Bank Ballpark, Bridgewater

Somerset Patriots vs. New Britain Bees Baseball ...

Sports

Westfield Police Blotter: Criminal Mischief to Vehicles Continues & More

June 20, 2018

June 13, 2018 9:24 a.m.

Officer Santangelo arrested Hakan Kaya, age 46, of Westfield, New Jersey on an outstanding warrant (#E19490) in the amount of $304.00 out of Neptune City Municipal Court pursuant to turning himself in at WPD Headquarters. Subject was processed and released after posting the full bail amount.

 

June 13, 2018 11:02 a.m.

Lieutenant McFarlean and Officer ...

Wardlaw+Hartridge Class of 2018 Graduates at Commencement

June 24, 2018

Wardlaw+Hartridge School in Edison held its 135th Commencement Ceremony on Friday, June 8 under a giant tent on the back athletic fields.

The Class of 2018 marched in, led by valedictorian and class president Suraj Chandran of Edison and vice president Cathy Bi of Edison carrying the class flag. The program began with the Star-Spangled Banner and a welcome from Dr. Bob Bowman of Scotch Plains, ...

AtlantiCast

AtlantiCast Episode 17

On this week’s AtlantiCast, it’s National Men’s Health Month, so check out important health tips for you or the men in your life, learn about groundbreaking research into breast cancer treatment that could mean an end to chemotherapy for some patients, meet a local sports hero who’s living his baseball dreams thanks to Goryeb Children’s Hospital and much ...

'Half Time' delivers with sterling cast

MILLBURN, NJ – The Paper Mill Playhouse is putting on a smashing new production of “Half Time” to round out its current season.

With actress Georgia Engel in an engaging performance, the cast also features Donna McKehnie, Andre De Shieilds and Lilias White, among a host of other talents.

The musical centers on an effort to have seniors perform a dance number during ...

Let's Talk About Suicide

In our world today, it seems our children, no matter the town, state, education, family unit, socioeconomic background, ethnicity or religion are grappling with complex, confounding and complicated issues not even fit for a middle-aged adult. Sadly, one of these issues is suicide. With mental health gaining more attention, the stigma appears to be dissipating but when a mental health ...

Summertime Air Quality Issues

Summer weather can be harmful to your health due to air pollutants like ozone, mold, and moisture that are more prevalent both inside and outside than they are during cooler months. 

Sunny days, warm temperatures, and light winds don’t allow pollutants to be cleared from outside air. Instead, they encourage the formation of ozone, a leading air pollutant.  Ozone is ...

Understand the New Law for Paid Sick Leave

Paid sick leave is now the law in New Jersey.

New Jersey has passed a paid sick leave law which preempts paid sick leave ordinances adopted by several cities and towns so there is now one uniform law in this area for New Jersey employers. Here is what you need to know about the new law.

33 Homes Sold June 10 to June 17 in Westfield, Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Mountainside & Cranford

Thirty-three Homes sold from June 10 to June 17, 2018, in Westfield, Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Cranford and Mountainside.*

 

TOWN         ADDRESS                      STYLE    ...

Westfield 3rd Graders Receive Top Honors at Mock Trial Competition

Westfield third graders recently received top honors for three mock court cases they presented at the New Jersey Bar Foundation Law Fair.

“I am proud that, out of 84 entries submitted, our third grade students (now fourth graders) in the Gifted Program have won 1st Place, 2nd Place and Honorable Mention in the 3rd Grade category [of the Law Fair ...

Maximizing Your Portfolio’s Returns -- Beware the Taxman

The old adage in the investment world is that it is not what you make, but what you keep that counts.  Investors often overlook the ultimate deflator of portfolio returns – the taxman. An astute global asset allocation should be the number one priority for investors.  However, there are preferred ways to distribute this asset allocation over the spectrum of taxable and ...

Greatness

In honor of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's (of righteous memory) 24th  Yahrtzeit (anniversary of his passing) this coming Saturday the 16th.

Excerpts from an address given by Nobel-laureate Elie Wiesel on April 7, 1992, at a congressional dinner held in Washington on the occasion of the Rebbe's 90th birthday.

Some of you are aware of my admiration, not only ...

Healthy U Spring Symposium Marks 10 Years of Community Impact

WESTFIELD, NJ — More than 100 Healthy U champions and partners from YMCAs and schools from all over the state gathered at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford on May 18 to celebrate 10 years of community impact. Healthy U was also formally presented with the 2017 CATCH® Award for Excellence in State Health. 

CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) is the ...

Bridgewater Mall Shut Down for 2 Hours After Fight Breaks Out

June 14, 2018

BRIDGEWATER, NJ — No injuries have been reported after a fight involving a crowd of people shut down the Bridgewater Commons Mall for two hours Thursday evening.

According to a Nixle alert from the Bridgewater Township Police Department at 9 p.m., the investigation at the mall has been completed, and the mall was resuming normal business operations.

According to Somerset County ...

Obituaries

Eric Lieberman, 47, of Scotch Plains, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly Tuesday, May 22, 2018 ...
Read more