Steven Banks, the Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society, argued before the New York State Court of Appeals yesterday that New York City has an obligation to continue to pay rent subsidies in the Advantage program for approximately 8,000 formerly homeless families and individuals until their Advantage subsidy agreements expire. In 2011, New York City announced that it would end the Advantage program and stop providing rent subsidies to thousands of formerly homeless families and individuals. In response, The Legal Aid Society and the law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP filed the case, Zheng v. City of New York, on behalf of what is now a certified class of 8,000 formerly homeless households.
The landlords of class members received their last subsidy payments in January and all of the 8,000 class member households are now at imminent risk of eviction and repeat homelessness. The Legal Aid Society and Weil Gotshal contend that the Advantage agreements among the City and participating tenants and landlords are legally enforceable contracts that obligate the City to continue the rent subsidies until these agreements expire. The agreements say the City "shall pay" and "will pay" and "guarantee" payment of the rent subsidies for at least one year, and for a second year if a formerly homeless tenant meets specified eligibility criteria.