Mayor Adams is considering vetoing new housing assistance bills, setting up political showdown

Gothamist, David Brand, June 14, 2023

As Mayor Eric Adams considers vetoing a package of housing assistance measures, members of the City Council are going to bat for their bills, setting up a potential legislative showdown among Democrats ahead of budget negotiations later this month.

Adams is weighing a decision to kill a package of four bills approved by the Council that would expand access to CityFHEPS housing vouchers for more low-income New Yorkers and eliminate a 90-day waiting period shelter residents must complete before they can gain access to rental subsidies. The Council passed the bills to issue more vouchers, which pay the bulk of the rent for formerly homeless New Yorkers, with a vetoproof majority in the Council last month.

“He can try to veto,” said Councilmember Diana Ayala, who chairs the general welfare committee. “Anything is possible, but I think we have a solid margin here.”

Adams says he will suspend the so-called “90-day rule”— long a target of people experiencing homelessness, organizers and providers — through executive action, but he has criticized the potential cost of the other measures, including a bill that would allow individuals facing eviction to qualify for the assistance without first becoming homeless.

In the weeks since the Council vote, members of the Adams administration have been calling councilmembers to see if they will stand down in an effort to dismantle the two-thirds majority needed to override a possible veto, according to three people directly familiar with the calls but not authorized to speak publicly about them.

City Hall spokesperson Fabien Levy said it was too early to say whether Adams will veto the housing measures, but added that the Council’s package would make “it harder for New Yorkers experiencing homelessness to exit shelter to permanent housing.”

City Hall argues that introducing more vouchers to the market would produce more competition for few units, trapping people in shelters for longer periods. And Adams’ office says the cost of expanding access to rental assistance could reach $17 billion over the next five years.

But several councilmembers, including the bill sponsors, are sharply criticizing the reasoning and the City Hall financial analysis. They say they’re preparing to override the veto, ramping up a political showdown over policies intended to stem New York City’s worsening homelessness crisis.

“It is far cheaper to pay for a voucher than it is to pay for a family in shelter,” Ayala said.

Councilmember Justin Brannan, who chairs the finance committee, said the cost of sheltering more than 80,000 people — mostly families and recently arrived migrants — is already “astronomical.”

“The fact is, keeping people in shelter and warehousing people with no end in sight is infinitely more expensive than moving people into permanent housing,” he said.

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