Niagara Gazette

Local News

January 15, 2013

ousing grant measure sent to county committee Tuesday night


Niagara Gazette —

Elizabeth White, an attorney who works with TANF recipients in Niagara Falls, said withholding rent is the only way some of her clients can force landowners to address poor housing conditions. She's opposed to any change in law or regulations that would strip welfare recipients of the ability to "advocate for themselves," she said.

To the oft-mentioned fact that the Department of Social Services can withhold rent payments for poor housing, White added, she hasn't seen that happen.

Another proposed resolution, by several Republican county legislators, calls on the state Assembly to pass a law banning the use of welfare benefit debit cards in strip clubs, liquor stores, casinos and other similar venues.

The Falls' representatatives' resolutions relating to welfare rent subsidies are in a similar vein, and equally sensible, community activist Ken Hamilton observed."These are not minority Democratic issues, they're near and dear to Libertarians, Conservatives ... people who pay taxes," he said.

The Landlords Association of Greater Niagara estimates members went through more than 1,000 eviction proceedings in 2009-2010, at a total cost of $3.8 million to the community from court costs, moving expenses, property repairs and lost rent while units were tied up in eviction. "A good portion" of the damages can be attributed to welfare clients, Association President Bob Pascoal asserted.

Seth Piccirillo, the director of the city's Department of Community Development, recently sat down with Dennis Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, and Pascoal to discuss the issue and what it is doing to the community.

Piccirillo said that when a tenant on public assistance, or any city resident, is evicted it destroys value for the landlord, the tenant and the entire community.

A home where a tenant is evicted has $4,000 in property damage after the that tenant moves out on average, according to a fact sheet from community development.

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