New York City’s increased issuance of housing vouchers appears uncontroversial, a rare policy that has the support of both tenants and landlords. But that has soured relations between Mayor Eric Adams and the city council, who may now take the dispute to court.
On Thursday, the City Council overturned the mayor’s veto of four bills that would have expanded eligibility for the City’s Homelessness Combating and Eviction Prevention Supplemental Program (CityFHEPS).It was the first veto since the Bloomberg administration: In 2013, the committee maintain two measures Increase oversight of the NYPD and its use of stop and frisk.
City Hall has yet to reveal its next steps, but a lawsuit appears imminent. At a news conference Wednesday, administration officials did not confirm they planned to file a lawsuit challenging the bills, but emphasized that the vouchers are administered by the Department of Social Services and not the legislative process, suggesting the city may challenge the commission’s legal authority to change the offers coupon program.
In a statement after the vote, the mayor said his government was “reviewing our options and next steps”.
“However, unlike the council, we don’t believe New Yorkers should spend $17 billion on a package of bills that would put New Yorkers behind the queue for CityFHEPS vouchers and make it harder for them to find permanent housing. said the mayor. “We will continue to do everything in our power to build more housing and address decades of exclusionary zoning policies that have prevented our city from building an adequate housing supply.”
Assembly leaders said the bills would be much less expensive, and some advocates said they could save money by reducing fees at homeless shelters.
One of the measures expanded income eligibility for vouchers: instead of 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or $60,000 For a family of four, the limit would change to 50% of the area median income, or $70,600.
Another defeated bill repealed a requirement that individuals and families spend at least 90 days in a homeless shelter in order to apply for CityFHEPS. The mayor signed an executive order similar to the measure, but with added work requirements. Two other measures aim to expand voucher eligibility to those at risk of homelessness or eviction and help low-income renters pay utility bills.
The mayor argued that the measures would be too costly — $17 billion over five years — and would increase competition for housing among the city’s 20,000 existing coupon holders. The city council challenged the mayor’s cost estimate, putting the total at closer to $11 billion. An analysis by the nonprofit Women in Need found the bills would save the city $730 million a year.
“The fundamental truth is that homelessness has come at a high cost to New Yorkers. That’s it,” City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said at a news conference ahead of Thursday’s vote.
The Citizens’ Budget Committee urged council not to overturn the scheme, arguing that the voucher scheme was already underfunded. The city’s voucher budget for fiscal year 2024 is $280 million, even though the program cost $421 million the previous year.
The bills are backed by some in the real estate industry, including the Real Estate Board of New York, which testified in support of the measures in January. When asked about the measures on Thursday, the trade group issued a statement but stayed out of the fight between the city council and the mayor.
“New York City needs a dramatic increase in housing supply and a stronger housing voucher system,” the group said. “We are committed to working with all stakeholders to find solutions to address these issues.”
Jay Martin, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program, said lawmakers have good intentions, but “There is a need to ensure that housing providers are engaged in the dialogue to improve the system so that it works. “
“Until enough housing is built in the city, rental assistance is the only viable affordability solution, but a voucher system without funding is as pointless as no voucher system at all,” he said in a statement. “CityFHEPS vouchers are often unreliable, poorly funded and prone to bureaucratic delays.”
He recently tweeted that voucher holders were denied access to apartments when inspections revealed that upstairs tenants had installed air conditioners on fire escapes.
It wasn’t Adams’ first veto, but it was the first major showdown with this group of council members. Ahead of Thursday’s vote, the voucher bill’s leading sponsor praised Adrienne Adams for standing up to the mayor.
City Council member Tiffany Cabán called the mayor’s housing policies “catastrophic,” pointing to rent increases approved by the city’s rent steering committee and budget cuts to the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
“The mayor’s City of ‘Yes’ seems to be a yes to big real estate and no to working New York,” she said.