MBF Grants in Action

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North Shore Community Action Programs

This year, the North Shore Community Action Programs received a grant of $18,000 to provide direct representation to low-income residents of Essex County who are faced with eviction, housing discrimination, and termination or denial of subsidized housing. They recently shared this client story:

Evelyn is a single mom living with her three sons on the North Shore. When she received a notice of tenancy termination due to rent arrearage, she attempted to right the situation herself. This included bringing her documentation of domestic abuse to the housing authority and photos of unsafe conditions in her apartment. The housing authority responded with maintenance accusing Evelyn of fabricating the conditions. No rent abatement was offered based on the poor conditions or the fact that her husband refused to provide his wages toward the payment of the rent.

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After several attempts to more fully explain her position to the housing authority, Evelyn received a summons to court. She was extremely distraught to think that she would become homeless after enduring terrible abuse by her now former husband, as well as living with cracked walls and steps, leaking bath and kitchen, and a non-functioning furnace fan. Evelyn was referred to NSCAP by her doctor's practice group. (NSCAP’s housing attorney provides ongoing housing law trainings and community outreach to medical practices and hospitals.)

Through discovery requests, NSCAP's housing attorney obtained previous inspections that documented the maintenance issues with the unit, as well , as well as documentation in her file that the tenant had indeed provided documentation of the domestic abuse and its connection to Evelyn's ability to keep current with the rent.

Currently, this case is still in negotiation on the issues of rent abatement based on the conditions that existed during a significant period of time after the housing authority knew about the conditions and failed to remedy them. Presently maintenance has now made the needed repairs, and Evelyn and her family have a much safer home. The second part of this matter has not yet been scheduled for trial, but may well be soon scheduled if the housing authority does not allow rent abatement under VAWA (Violence Against Women Act).

This client story exemplifies the legal assistance that is needed to assist a family with stabilizing safe and affordable housing, particularly for a tenant who has already been traumatized.