November 20, 2018

Section 8 vouchers disproportionately go to Brooklyn’s Chasidic Jews, report charges

Chasidic Jews in Brooklyn benefit disproportionately from Section 8 housing vouchers, even as other impoverished residents have difficulty obtaining the federal housing subsidy, according to a new report.

A joint investigation published Tuesday by WNYC and the New York Daily News found that in several heavily Chasidic sections of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, more than 30 percent of residents use Section 8 vouchers, a benefit for those unable to afford market-rate rents.

The statistic is striking because the neighborhood, which has gentrified dramatically in recent years, is near Manhattan and commands among the city’s highest rents and sale prices. In contrast, according to the report, most of the city’s Section 8 users are in outlying neighborhoods with lower market-rate rents.

According to the report, 120,000 eligible New Yorkers are on a waiting list for Section 8 benefits.

It is unclear from the reporting whether the Hasidic community’s large representation among Section 8 beneficiaries stems from illegal dealings or if it is simply a result of the tight-knit community’s organizing and advocacy skills. The report cited two fraud cases, including in 2012, when the head of the large Satmar school United Talmudical Academy and his brother pleaded guilty to defrauding the Section 8 program of $200,000.

Some sources quoted by the Daily News and WNYC accused members of the Chasidic community of using off-the-books income to supplement their payments to the landlord, thus paying higher rent than what is reported to the government. They also claimed that many Williamsburg buildings owned by Chasidic developers have violated the Fair Housing Act by marketing their rentals exclusively to Chasidic families.