Officials from New York City and Newark spent the day Monday hammering out an agreement over the Special One Time Assistance (SOTA) program, which relocates homeless families in New York to homes in Newark and other communities across the country.
Newark last week filed a lawsuit seeking to end the transfer of homeless families from New York under the SOTA program, and have also asked a judge to halt the relocation of any more families until the lawsuit is decided.
Meeting at the federal courthouse in Newark Monday with Newark officials, attorneys for New York City agreed to a temporary pause in the program until the courts rule on whether the relocation of families and individuals should cease altogether until the lawsuit is decided .
New York has also agreed to provide Newark with a confidential list of the people relocated to Newark and their addresses.
In addition, New York officials agreed to work with Newark to inspect the homes. If they're found to be substandard, the landlords will faces charges in municipal or Essex County Superior Court, Newark officials said.
About 1,200 families from New York were moved to homes in Newark under SOTA, which provides a year's worth of rent. New York started the program because of a shortage of facilities within city limits for its growing homeless population.
But the housing often proved to be substandard, as inspections by Newark officials and a report by New York City investigators found.
The homes often lacked adequate heat, were infested with vermin or had other problems, but officials in Newark were not immediately aware of the issues because they had not been notified in advance of the relocations. Despite the unsuitability of the homes, SOTA paid the landlords the full year's rent in advance.
“So far, we’ve gotten much of what we asked for and we look forward to continue to work collaboratively with New York City to improve the quality of life for their S.O.T.A. recipients,” said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.
"For us, this was always about making sure these people were in safe and sanitary housing, and they were handled in a dignified manner, not just jettisoned here with no safety nets.”
Other communities in Essex and Union counties that have received SOTA families have also raised objections to the program. Last week, Elizabeth said it would join in Newark's lawsuit, after Union County officials said they too were contemplating legal action over the program.
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