NEW YORK—A judge ruled in favor of a group of Hurricane Sandy evacuees on Wednesday in a case against New York City. The evacuees have been living in hotels, some for more than 6 months, because they haven’t yet found suitable housing alternatives.
The group of 395 households in a network of about 40 hotels in all five boroughs includes homeowners and renters who were forced to evacuate their homes following Sandy. Their numbers have been steadily declining in the past few months as people return to previous homes, find new housing, or enter the city’s homeless shelter system.
Some hotel rooms are being paid for by New York City and others are being paid for by FEMA. Those living in city-sponsored hotels had until May 31 to find another option. Others who are living in the rooms funded by FEMA had until May 29.
Since the lawsuit was filed at the end of April, the city has repeatedly said the program was never intended to be a long-term option for those made homeless by the storm.
A lawyer for the Department of Homeless Services told New York Civil Court Judge Margaret Chan during a hearing on Monday that they wanted to end the hotel program on May 31 because at the time they put evacuees in hotels there wasn’t enough room in the city’s shelter system. They said that now that there are fewer evacuees who need a place to stay, shelters can accommodate them.
Several households that were in the hotel program, including at least one family with children, are already living in shelters.
Of the households still in the hotel program, there are 156 that have no current housing prospects, and 239 that have some type of housing option but are waiting to move for a variety of reasons.
One potential lifeline is a federal housing voucher program that will provide housing assistance for up to two years. The program was approved for $9 million of federal funds on Friday. The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development has said it can have the program up and running in 6 weeks, but the federal Department of Homeland Security told Judge Chan on Monday that it would take through September to place Sandy families in homes.