Caught in Bureaucratic Maze, Bronx Mom Fights City To Keep Roof Over Kids’ Heads

By Kevin Deutsch
[email protected]

A formerly homeless Bronx woman was illegally stripped of her Section 8 housing subsidy—and now faces eviction—after the city refused to accept documents showing she still qualifies for the voucher, a new lawsuit claims.

Making things more difficult for Sheleigh Bidding, a mother of several children: the city agency responsible for her subsidy won’t grant a hearing allowing her to challenge its revocation, since her request for the proceeding came seven days too late, court papers allege.

“Terminating her subsidy and rendering her at risk of losing her home of eighteen years is a disproportionate penalty to impose on a tenant who slightly deviated from the annual recertification timeline,” Bidding’s attorney, Nora Kenty of the legal organization Mobilization for Justice, said in papers filed in Bronx Civil Court last week.

The suit names the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, along with the Department’s Commissioner, Louise Carroll, as defendants. Bidding is asking the court to let her remain in her apartment at 2705 Morris Avenue; a place she’s lived for 18 years, ever since moving out of a local homeless shelter.

To that end, Bidding seeks a court order requiring the agency to restore her housing subsidy. Alternatively, she is asking a judge to order a HPD  hearing to determine whether she still qualifies for the voucher, something the agency has so far refused, Bidding says.

Should the hearing be granted, Bidding expects to win back the voucher, since all her verification papers are in order—just as they have been for the past 17 years, according to Kenty.

As of January 2018, Bidding’s rent for the apartment was $1,325.50. She paid $879 from her own pocket, with the remaining $446.50 coming via the voucher program,  according to court papers.

Bidding, who also seeks a stay in the eviction proceeding brought against her as a result of the lost  subsidy, says she mailed the verification documents to HPD in December 2018, just as she’s done every year since 2000.

She assumed everything was fine until January 2019, when she received a “Subsidy Termination” notice from HPD saying she had failed to submit any recertification documents.

Surprised by the notice—which Bidding says came without any prior warning, in violation of city law—she immediately sent her income verification documents off to HPD a second time, according to the suit.

The following month, she visited HPD’s Manhattan headquarters in person to see whether her subsidy had been renewed, or whether additional documents were required. There, an HPD employee informed Bidding her subsidy had been “terminated,” the suit alleges.

The worker gave Bidding a form to request an informal hearing to appeal the decision, which she filled out and submitted on site. She also handed over the income verification documents she’d already mailed: paystubs, bank statements, and an employment verification letter among them, the suit states.

At the end of February, she received a notice from HPD saying her hearing request had been denied “because it was late.” The request had been due Feb. 15, but had not been submitted until Feb. 22, the document said.

“HPD’s decision about your Section 8 participation is FINAL,” the notice read.

When Bidding returned to HPD headquarters to ask that her subsidy be restored, an employee told her it couldn’t be—and that her only option was to file another appeal.

Bidding was due in Bronx Housing Court July 1 for a nonpayment proceeding brought by her landlord, 2705 Morris LLC.

Neither HPD nor the company could immediately be reached for comment.

About Kevin Deutsch 265 Articles
Kevin Deutsch is a Staff Writer for Bronx Justice News covering the criminal justice system, drugs, and DNA use by law enforcement. An award-winning journalist, Deutsch is the author of the true crime books "Pill City" and "The Triangle." He has worked on staff at the Daily News, Miami Herald, Newsday, The Palm Beach Post, and The Riverdale Press. His work has also appeared in Newsweek, Columbia Journalism Review, The New York Times, The Village Voice, The Forward, The Independent, Huffington Post, Orlando Sentinel, and the New York Post, among other publications. His numerous television appearances include spots on CNN, MSNBC, and C-SPAN's BookTV. He has also been featured in The New Yorker. A Bronx resident, Deutsch hosts the true crime podcast "A Dark Turn" on the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network.