Full Package of Rental Voucher Laws Not on Mayor’s Agenda, Despite Veto Override

THE CITY LIMITS, Emma Whitford, November 26, 2023

With under two months left on the clock, Mayor Eric Adams’ administration is not taking steps to fully implement a package of bills that would expand rental voucher eligibility among New Yorkers facing eviction.

In July, the New York City Council voted 42-8 to override the mayor’s veto of the legislative package, the first such showdown since the Bloomberg administration. This ushered in a 180-day buffer period—until the week of Jan. 9—for Adams to implement reforms to the City Family Homelessness and Eviction Prevention Supplement voucher program, known as CityFHEPS.

Advocates for tenants and the homeless hoped the Human Resources Administration (HRA) would undertake rulemaking—the process of formalizing agency procedures to roll out, and comply with, all four bills. They also suggested where the city needs to spend in order to be ready for a larger application volume.

But instead, HRA is implementing a narrower, partly-conflicting rule that Adams signed in June, leaving some reforms—like broader eligibility outside of shelter and higher income eligibility—by the wayside. The city confirmed the administration is not acting on the full four-bill package.

“They’re cherry-picking here and doing rulemaking on the bills that they agree with… and not on the others,” said Christine Quinn, executive director of Win, the city’s largest family shelter provider. “And one of the most important ones they’re not doing are the ones going to people who are facing eviction.”  

Launched in 2018, the CityFHEPS program allows tenants to pay part of their income in rent, up to 30 percent, while the city covers the rest, up to a fixed maximum. There were 26,500 households receiving CityFHEPS as of May, according to City Hall. 

Under current rules, New Yorkers who are not in shelter have to meet strict qualifications to access CityFHEPS. But one of the bills passed in July would expand voucher eligibility to any income-qualifying household “at risk of eviction,” demonstrated with a rent demand letter—a notice signaling the impending start of an eviction case. 

The Council package also lifts income eligibility from 200 percent of the federal poverty level to 50 percent of the area median income, or $63,550 for a family of three. Work requirements are eliminated, utility payment calculations are adjusted and New Yorkers can access the vouchers in a wider range of shelter systems, including those for youth. 

Additionally, the package eliminates a 90-day waiting period to qualify for CityFHEPS after entering shelter, criticized as a needless bureaucratic hurdle. 

But the mayor has been critical of the package since it first passed the Council in May, dismissing it as too costly and predicting that expanding eligibility would make it difficult for existing voucher holders to find apartments in the city’s tight rental market.

In June, Adams signed an emergency order plucking out and eliminating the 90-day rule. He also tweaked the CityFHEPs work requirements—increasing them for adults and decreasing them for families with children rather than eliminating them altogether, as the Council bills do.

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