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Domestic Violence and Housing

FLU Fact Sheet #4

What housing choices do I have as a domestic violence victim?

If you have fled or want to flee your home due to domestic violence, you may be eligible for the following housing programs:

  • Domestic Violence shelter
  • Homeless shelter
  • New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) housing
  • Section 8 voucher
  • NYCHA and Section 8 transfers
  • ACS Section 8 voucher
  • FEPS relief
  • Emergency rent arrears grant

How do I get into a domestic violence shelter?

You can try to get into a domestic violence shelter by calling New York City’s Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-621-HOPE. Because the hotline receives hundreds of calls a day, continue to call until a space becomes available. If you cannot find space at a shelter in NYC, you can ask to be referred to a shelter outside the city or even outside the state.

Domestic violence shelters provide temporary housing at secure, confidential locations. They also offer specialized services, such as counseling, medical and legal services, safety planning, child care, job readiness training, and assistance with permanent housing. These shelters are referred to as Tier I shelters.

Priority is given to families. There are few shelters available to single individuals.

How long can I stay at a domestic violence shelter?

You can live at a domestic violence shelter for only 90 days. If you have not found an apartment in 90 days, you can request a 75 day extension. Most shelter residents find housing before the time expires. However, if you do not find an apartment by the expiration date, the shelter’s housing coordinator will help you find another temporary housing arrangement. Because your stay at a domestic violence shelter is brief, you should start your housing search early.

What if I cannot get into a domestic violence shelter?

Because there are so few beds available at domestic violence shelters, there may not be space available for you. If you can’t get into a domestic violence shelter, you can seek temporary housing at a regular homeless shelter. These shelters are called Tier II shelters. Most Tier II shelters do not have specialized services for domestic violence victims and are not located at secure, confidential addresses. However, residents at Tier II shelters can stay up to six months until they find permanent housing.

To get into a Tier II shelter, you must go to the Prevention Assistance and Temporary Housing (PATH) Office which is located 346 Powers Ave., Bronx, NY. At PATH, you should speak with a worker in the No Violence Again (NOVA) office where you will be screened for domestic violence and referred to either a Tier I or Tier II shelter. PATH assists families. If you do not have children, you will be referred to the Adult Family Intake Center (AFIC), 29th St. & 1st Ave., Manhattan, which will try to place you in a shelter.

What is the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)?

NYCHA is a federally funded agency which provides affordable permanent housing to low and moderate income individuals and families. NYCHA housing is also referred to as public housing or the projects.

To be eligible for NYCHA housing, at least one member of your household must be documented (be a citizen or legal permanent resident) and you must meet NYCHA’s income guidelines.

Rent for NYCHA apartments is calculated based on income. If you are employed, your rent will equal 30% of your income. If you receive public assistance, your rent will equal your public assistance shelter allowance. Because NYCHA receives so many applications each year, it is very difficult to get NYCHA housing. However, victims of domestic violence are given priority. Applicants residing at shelters are given a higher priority than non-shelter residents.

How do I apply for NYCHA housing?

If you reside in a shelter, your housing coordinator will apply for you by preparing the forms and submitting them to 33 Beaver Street, NY, NY. If you do not live in a shelter, you should contact a non-profit agency such as Park Slope Safe Homes) to help you.

Applications for non-shelter residents living in Brooklyn are submitted to 350 Livingston Street, Brooklyn, NY. The entire application process can take about four months.
Along with the application form, you must also provide the following documents:

  • A current order of protection
  • A police report regarding an incident other than the basis for the order of protection
  • Proof of income (e.g., paystubs, tax returns, or public assistance budget letter)
  • Personal documents (e.g., birth certificates and social security cards)
  • Letter from the shelter (if residing at a shelter)

If you don’t have an order of protection because you can’t apply for one in Family Court (because you’re not married to the abuser and don’t have children with him and there is no criminal case pending against him), you can go to the Court Dispute Referral Center (CDRC) at Criminal Court (120 Schermerhorn Street) and ask for a letter. The letter should state that you reported the domestic violence and came to Criminal Court seeking help. NYCHA may use the CDRC letter in lieu of an order of protection.

After you submit your application, you will be contacted for an interview. At the interview, your application will be reviewed, and you will be told whether you need to provide additional information. NYCHA will conduct a criminal background check on you and your household members and check whether you owe rent to a previous landlord.

How does NYCHA decide which housing development I will live in?

When you apply for NYCHA housing, you can select the borough where you want to live. However, you cannot obtain NYCHA housing in the same zip code or nearby zip code where the domestic violence incident occurred, where you lived, or where the abuser lives.

What if I already have a NYCHA apartment?

If you don’t want to remain in your NYCHA apartment because of domestic violence, you can apply for an emergency transfer. If approved, you will be relocated to another project in a different borough.

How do I apply for a NYCHA emergency transfer?

You must first contact the manager of your housing project who will give you basic information about the emergency transfer program and refer you to a Safe Horizon office (formerly Victim Services). Safe Horizon will give you the transfer application, help you complete it, and submit the application to NYCHA. Along with the application form, you must submit a current order of protection and a police report regarding an incident other than the basis for the order of protection.

To be eligible for an emergency transfer, you must

  • have your name on the lease
  • be head of household
  • not owe any rent to NYCHA
  • leave an empty and clean apartment

What if my abuser still lives in my NYCHA apartment?

Even if your abuser lives in the apartment, you may still be eligible for an emergency transfer. This may be true even if his name is on the lease. NYCHA may file a proceeding against your abuser to evict him from the apartment and insist that you obtain an order of protection which excludes him from the apartment.

What is Section 8?

Section 8 is a federally funded program, administered by NYCHA, which provides vouchers to low and moderate income individuals and families living in private apartments. This program does not offer you an apartment like NYCHA housing. Instead, if you are approved for Section 8, you will receive a voucher (also referred to as a certificate or subsidy) which will help you pay your rent. You must find a landlord who will accept the Section 8 voucher and who has an apartment that will pass an inspection conducted by NYCHA to ensure the apartment is in good condition.

Similar to NYCHA housing, rent is calculated based on income. If you are employed, you will be required to pay at least 30% of your income. If you receive public assistance, you will be required to pay the public assistance shelter allowance. The Section 8 program will pay the difference in rent directly to your landlord up to the fair market rent.

There are two types of Section 8 programs for domestic violence victims:
Regular Section 8 and Emergency Assistance Rehousing Program (EARP) Section 8. However, you must live in a Tier I shelter for at least 42 days before applying for EARP. The wait for Tier II residents is 90 days.

How do I find an apartment?

You can find an apartment by obtaining lists of Section 8 certified apartments from the shelter, non-profit agencies, brokers and real estate agencies. You can also check the real estate section of local newspapers and speak to family and friends about available apartments.

If you are applying for Section 8, you cannot live in an apartment in the same zip code or nearby zip codes to where the domestic violence occurred, where you lived or where the abuser lives.

If you find an apartment that is not already Section 8 certified, the landlord must contact NYCHA and agree to enter into the Section 8 program. Once the apartment passes inspection, a lease signing date and move in date will be scheduled. Lend A Hand is also available to Section 8 applicants who are living in a shelter and have open public assistance cases, and Eviction Services is available to non-shelter residents.

After I move, can I move again with my Section 8 voucher?

Yes although you will have to obtain permission and generally need documentation of the reason you need to move (for example, if you are a victim of domestic violence and your abuser has found your new address, or if you are a victim of a new crime).

What if I already have Section 8?

If you live in an apartment with Section 8 and want to move because of domestic violence, you may be eligible for an emergency transfer. You can apply for a transfer at 350 Livingston Street. You may need to submit copies of your current order of protection and police reports.

What if my children are in foster care and I need help finding housing?

If you have children in foster care and housing is the main reason your children are not being returned, you may be eligible for a Section 8 voucher through the Administration for Children’s Services’ (ACS) Family Unification Program. You should contact your foster care agency or ACS caseworker.

What can I do if I owe rent to my landlord?

If you owe rent to your landlord, you can apply for an emergency rent arrears grant (also called a one shot) at your nearest public assistance center. You do not need to be a recipient of public assistance nor have a pending court case to be eligible for a grant. However, you must be income eligible.

You may also be eligible for Family Eviction Prevention Supplement (FEPS) relief to help you pay your rent. To be eligible, you must have children, be a recipient of public assistance, have a relatively low rent, and have a pending Housing Court case. If you are approved for FEPS, your back rent will be paid and your public assistance benefits will increase to cover your rent in full or in part.

Usually, individuals applying for FEPS want to remain in their apartment. However, if you need to relocate due to domestic violence, you can apply to move with the FEPS when you submit your initial application. However, you must already have a lease for a new apartment. If you don’t, you will not be able to take the FEPS with you to a new apartment unless the domestic violence occurs after you have been approved for FEPS. You can get help filing for FEPS or a one shot through the Legal Aid Society, Legal Services, or CAMBA. For more information regarding FEPS and one shots, see SBLS Fact Sheet #22.

For more information you can call the Family/Domestic Violence Unit hotline on Tuesdays 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. at (718) 237-5563 or go to the Family Justice Center at 350 Jay Street, 15th Floor, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

This article was posted January 09, 2008