The City Council is expected to take a significant vote Thursday, setting itself up for another battle against the Adams administration. This time, it is over the administration’s failure to expand the housing voucher program.
The vote will be on a resolution to “authorize the Speaker to commence legal action on behalf of the New York City Council to compel the Mayor and his Administration to implement CityFHEPS reform laws.”
The council had initially gave the administration a Feb. 7 deadline to implement the changes, warning it was prepared to sue the city if it did not comply. CityFHEPS is a rental assistance voucher program that helps homeless New Yorkers access apartments. The program was expanded last year to also include New Yorkers facing eviction, as the city’s shelter system faced a breaking point from the arrival of thousands of asylum seekers.
The new law took effect last month but the Adams administration has refused to fund the changes.
"The City has a responsibility to comply with local laws and the Council must maintain its legal options to ensure compliance,” said Rendy Desamours, a City Council spokesperson.
The council statement goes on to note that the changes to the program help struggling New Yorkers. Some of the other changes made to the program include prohibiting the city from deducting a utility allowance from the voucher and the removal of the 90-day rule, which Adams eliminated through an executive order. The rule initially required people to stay in a shelter for three months before becoming eligible for a voucher.
However, Mayor Adams and his administration maintain that the expansion of the program is too costly and creates more competition for housing.
“[T]his legislation will add $17 billion onto the backs of our taxpayers. Simultaneously, it will make it harder for New Yorkers in shelter to move into permanent housing at a time when there are 10,000 households in shelter that are eligible for CityFHEPS and thousands of asylum seekers continue to arrive in our city every week,” a City Hall spokesperson said in a statement Wednesday.
The spokesperson added that fully funding the program “will only force more painful budget cuts onto working-class New Yorkers.”
The move by the City Council is just the latest in the ongoing political fight between the two branches of City Hall. The council won a resounding victory on two public safety bills just last week, voting to override two mayoral vetoes.
Even as tensions remain, the Adams administration seems hopeful they can come to a mutual understanding on the rental voucher program.
“We always seek to work collaboratively with our colleagues at the City Council, and look forward to identifying more areas of common ground to support New Yorkers experiencing homelessness, including an aggressive, citywide effort to build more housing in every neighborhood,” added the City Hall spokesperson.
The resolution will first be voted on in the General Welfare Committee Chaired by Councilwoman Diana Ayala, who has been critical of Adams’ position on the program. If voted out of committee, the measure will go to a full floor vote at Thursday’s stated meeting. The legal action could come in a form of a lawsuit or some other court action.