Supervisor William Grinnell (R-Ticonderoga) said he has a similar situation at a house in Ticonderoga.
“If caseworkers can’t go out, that’s a policy issue,” he said. “We should update our policies.”
O’Neill said after the meeting that it’s a state law that bars the housing inspections.
“As was explained last year, and many times in the past when this has been brought up, state law simply does not give Social Services departments the authority to inspect housing as a condition of eligibility, and counties cannot unilaterally impose policies that conflict with state law.
“Rather than repeatedly bringing this up as a failing of county departments, the authority for building-code enforcement continues to be under the sole authority of the towns, period.
“The only alternative is to change New York State Social Services Law.”
STATE SUPERSEDES LOCAL
O’Neill pointed to Niagara County, which found it could not require housing inspections for welfare recipients receiving monthly housing allowances.
The State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance has issued an opinion that assistance recipients “can’t be denied a shelter allowance based on a local law imposing a condition of eligibility (that’s) not found in state law. Eligibility for public assistance allowances is not conditioned upon residing in an apartment or accommodation having a valid certificate of occupancy or rental permit, and local districts cannot add this requirement as a condition of eligibility.”
Although agencies can’t require inspections, State Social Services Law 143 authorizes them to withhold housing assistance if the home has a violation of law that is “dangerous, hazardous or detrimental to life or health.”
If the local codes officer determines the residence is unsafe, the county can withhold a shelter allowance or rehouse the recipient, the law states.