By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Two Brooklyn organizations that advocate for affordable housing in New York are getting financial help from the federal government to do their work, thanks to U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, who obtained $975,000 in funding for the groups.
Velazquez (D-Brooklyn-Manhattan), who announced the funding on April 25, said she obtained the money from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation and South Brooklyn Legal Corporation. The two organizations will share the $975,000 and use the money to continue providing legal and other services to working families in Brooklyn, Velazquez said.
Their work includes representing tenants in court against abusive and neglectful landlords, the congresswoman said.
“For families to access affordable housing, they often need legal representation that takes their side against abusive landlords. I’m pleased these organizations are receiving additional federal funding that will allow them to continue advocating on behalf of New York’s working families,” Velazquez said.
The two Brooklyn organizations have been working for more than 15 years, focusing on legal redress to prevent predatory lending practices and foreclosures against low-income homeowners. The groups have also been instrumental in stopping housing discrimination, lending discrimination and foreclosures, Velazquez said. Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation has recently been involved in several high-profile cases, including one in which a Bushwick landlord was allegedly refusing to repair apartments in an attempt to force out lower income tenants and raise rents.
The mission of Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation is to provide high-quality legal assistance to low-income individuals and community groups in Brooklyn, according to a statement on its website. “We view legal assistance in terms of community development, education, and mobilization, as well as traditional representation. To that end, we partner with and provide legal services to effective local grassroots organizations that have a demonstrated commitment to our common goal of social and economic justice,” the statement reads. The organization has offices at 260 Broadway in Brooklyn.
South Brooklyn Legal Corporation, located at 105 Court St., provides legal assistance to low-income individuals and groups, according to its website. The assistance includes legal advice and referral, representation in court and before administrative agencies, and help with community development and education projects. “We negotiate with landlords about broken refrigerators and argue appeals in high courts,” its mission statement reads.
Velazquez said she admires the work the two organizations do. “Too often, the landlord-tenant relationship is unbalanced with all the power on the side of unscrupulous landlords. Organizations like these play a critical role in giving tenants somewhere to turn when they are being treated unfairly under the law,” she said.
The funding comes in the form of grants from HUD. In April, HUD observed National Fair Housing Month, marking the anniversary of the passage of the 1968 Fair Housing Act, the landmark law that prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability and family status.
“Fair and affordable housing is a basic right for all New Yorkers and all Americans. To protect those rights we must continue investing in those organizations committed to advocating on behalf of residents,” Velazquez said.