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Housing voucher discrimination alleged in Queens. "I broke down and cried," woman says.

Woman approved for an affordable apartment in Queens says she never got the keys
Woman approved for an affordable apartment in Queens says she never got the keys 02:07

NEW YORK -- Queens native and proud grandmother Shavonna Wilkins found her dream apartment in Rego Park through a housing lottery.

Facing health complications, she says she appreciated its proximity to medical offices.

"I saw the apartment. I was in love with the apartment," she said. "And the area is multicultural. Everybody's there, and it seems like they're so loving."

She was approved and ready to move in until an unexpected email arrived. Reside New York, the agency that matched her, told her the landlord pulled out of the NYC Housing Connect program. The apartment was no longer hers.

"I was really devastated. I broke down and cried," she said. "I believe it's discrimination of my voucher."

Source of income discrimination happens when landlords, owners, or brokers deny tenants relying on public assistance to cover rent. It has been illegal in New York City since 2008.

Reside New York, the agency that matched Wilkins, called itself a HPD-approved marketing agency and denied discrimination. Its statement reads, in part:

"...If a property owner chooses to withdraw from the regulated program, and forfeits the associated benefits, they are no longer restricted to rent the units through Housing Connect or comply with HPD/HDC guidelines. The owner and their representing marketing agent have no obligation to rent the units or find other housing opportunities for applicants who applied through the lottery system. Though Reside New York encourages all applicants seeking housing to apply to as many opportunities on Housing Connect as there are thousands of units available annually through this process..."

Management for the building, GT One Stop Realty Corp. and Rego Park Partner LLC, did not respond to CBS New York's request for comment.  

Stephanie Rivera of the NYC Commission on Human Rights says it is unlawful to express preference for tenants paying out of pocket.

"Penalties up to $250,000 can be imposed if the violation is willful," she said.

Wilkins is holding onto hope for a forever home.

"I just want to have a new place where I'm comfortable, where I'm happy and I'm in a decent environment, and that's all I ask," she said.

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