Housing Options For Parents Of Foster Care
Finding safe and affordable housing is a challenge for anyone living in New York City. It can be even more of a challenge for young parents, who may have fewer housing options than young people without children of their own. For this reason, it is important to begin planning early. Your agency is responsible for working with you to find you permanent housing and you should start exploring your options as soon as you turn 17. Speak to your caseworker, an agency supervisor, or the housing coordinator at your agency to get planning underway. You can also reach out directly to the ACS Housing Support and Services Unit (call 212-341- 8979 or go in person to the Manhattan office at 150 William St., 8th Fl.). If you're not getting the information and assistance you need, make sure to contact your lawyer immediately.
There are three main housing programs for young parents leaving foster care. Work with your agency to apply for all three housing programs; that way you can choose the one that best meets your needs.
The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) NYCHA gives priority to applications from young people leaving foster care and locates apartments for them in public housing complexes. To qualify for NYCHA, you must have some form of income, you must be employed or in school, and you must pass a criminal background check. In order to get the foster care priority, your caseworker must assemble and submit your application packet on your behalf. Your application must include your child(ren) so you'll be eligible for a family-appropriate apartment.
NY/NY III Supportive Housing This is a subsidized, semi-permanent housing program that offers tenants their own apartments as well as access to supportive services like case management, mental health services, job programs, and public benefits advocacy. Although most categories of NY/NY III are only available to single adults, young parents and their children are eligible for NY/NY III housing if the parent has a serious mental illness or if the family has become homeless after leaving foster care. Agency staff must complete the application for you to be considered for NY/ NY III and you must agree to certain testing, like psychological evaluations, which will be included in the application packet. To qualify for NY/NY III, you must also have some source of income and be able to pay 30% of your income towards rent, among other conditions.
Section 8 The Section 8 housing program, which previously supported young people leaving foster care, has been suspended since 2009 and remains suspended as of the time of this booklet's publishing in 2012. Ask your caseworker or lawyer if Section 8 has become active again to see if this is another option available to you.
The ACS Housing Subsidy This subsidy program gives rent assistance to young people who sign out of foster care before their 21st birthday and who are not living in other subsidized housing (like NYCHA or NY/NY III). The ACS Housing Subsidy pays up to $300 per month directly to your landlord for your rent, until you've received $10,800 in rent assistance or until you turn 21, whichever comes first. In order to qualify for the ACS Housing Subsidy, you must be on trial discharge to independent living (APPLA) with a documented source of income, and you must be able to pay 30 percent of your income towards your housing costs. Other conditions apply, so speak with your caseworker to learn more as soon as you decide you want to leave foster care prior to your 21st birthday. You can also call ACS's Housing Subsidy Office (212-442-2140) or your lawyer for help.
The ACS Housing Subsidy program also offers a "one-shot grant" that can provide you up to $1,800 to cover a broker's fee, security deposit, first month's rent, moving expenses, and/or rent arrears (money to pay back rent to prevent you from being evicted). Speak with your caseworker or your lawyer for more information about applying.
In addition to these three main housing programs, there are a host of other smaller programs that have limited openings for young parents aging out of foster care, as well as programs that provide cash assistance for housing-related needs. These include apartment lotteries, "Semiperm" housing, utilities assistance, furniture grants, and programs to help homeless youth and families as well as youth and families who are at risk of becoming homeless.
For information about additional housing programs and support, as well as more detailed information about the application processes and eligibility requirements for the housing programs listed here, please consult Lawyers for Children's You Are Not Alone: Aging Out of Foster Care handbook. You can get a copy by calling (212) 966-6420 or read and print a copy online at www.lawyersforchildren.org.