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Newark Passes Ordinance That Targets Forgotten Families Landlords

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A New Jersey municipality has taken action that will make it harder for New York City to relocate homeless families there.

For nearly a year, CBS2 has reported on the forgotten families. They say they were pressured to move out of city shelters and into dilapidated homes out of state.

Just two weeks ago, Jarvis Cureton showed reporter Lisa Rozner his roach-and-rat-infested apartment in Newark. He said New York City's Department of Homeless Services pressured his family to move there from a Manhattan shelter under the Special One-Time Assistance Program -- or SOTA. The city pays landlords one year's rent up front.

But as CBS2 has exposed in a series of reports, some landlords are providing housing with no heat, or hot water and many other problems.

Forgotten Families
(credit: CBS2)

Cureton is part of the roughly 1,200 New York City residents relocated by DHS to New Jersey's largest city and now Newark is laying down the law.

"You can't take a needy person and send them to Newark because what's going to happen is the city's going to pay the bill for them afterwards," corporation counsel Kenyatta Stewart said.

FLASHBACK: Forgotten Families Landlord That Ran From CBS2 Pleads Guilty In East Orange Courtroom

This week, Newark passed an ordinance that requires housing enforcement inspect a home before it's rented. It also bans subsidized rent vouchers for more than one month, so landlords cannot take a full year's rent up front like they do in the SOTA program.

Former SOTA recipients CBS2 profiled that were placed in other places in New Jersey applaud the action.

"They would have had less problems like the problems me and my family lived through," Michael Leake said.

"At least they're trying to do something because the city is still continuing with the same program," Sade Collington said. "They were never rushing to see or make sure that everything was in place."

Penalties for violating the ordinance are fines ranging from $250 to $1,000, or 90 days in jail.

"It's a shame because at this point the people who are here, who want to make it our business to make sure they're safe and we're not able to do that because we don't know where they are," Stewart said.

A spokesman for DHS said the agency shares Newark's concern about unscrupulous landlords, and that it has strengthened the program to protect tenants. He claims the city will work with Newark on these issues.

Rozner also wanted to speak with Newark mayor Ras Baraka, but he was not available for an interview on Sunday. The ordinance takes effect Dec. 14.

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