Bills provide solutions to record homelessness and worsening eviction crisis

City Hall, NY – In response to Mayor Adams’ executive order suspending the rule that requires individuals to stay in a homeless shelter for 90 consecutive days before qualifying for a CityFHEPS housing voucher, the New York City Council, homeless services providers and advocates called on the Mayor to sign all of the recently-passed Council bills into law. The four bills were passed by the Council on May 25 with votes of 41 to 7, far more than a veto-proof majority.

First heard in January, the bills were overwhelmingly approved by the Council after nearly one year of inaction by the Administration to eliminate the 90-day rule, despite first pledging to end it in June 2022. As the city continued to welcome tens of thousands of people seeking asylum in the U.S. throughout the past year, the Council continued to call for the Administration to eliminate the rule in statements, hearings, and reports, as a solution to better assist New Yorkers in transitioning out of the shelter system to permanent housing. 

According to data for the first four months of Fiscal Year 2023 in the most recent Preliminary Mayor’s Management Report, the average length of stay in shelter was 802 days for adult families, 485 days for families with children, and 441 days for single adults. The Mayor’s Housing Blueprint estimates that it cost the city nearly $8,773 per month to house a family of two in the shelter system in 2022. A CityFHEPS voucher for the same family would cost a maximum of $2,387, and likely less, resulting in a lower total annual expense.

At a time of record homelessness, the Administration has also left thousands of apartments vacant. It has failed to place homeless New Yorkers into over 2,000 vacant supportive housing apartments, while cutting funds from and understaffing the agencies responsible for making the placements. It has also cut funding from NYCHA to help fill vacant apartments, when over 6,500 remain empty and unavailable for tenants. Meanwhile, the Mayor’s administration has failed to intervene as the number of evictions has skyrocketed, surpassing 100,000 cases in the courts.

“Passing legislation to reform city policies that have blocked New Yorkers’ access to CityFHEPS housing vouchers was a critical and long overdue step to help people move out of shelters, find and maintain stable housing, and reduce homelessness,” said Speaker Adrienne Adams. “The 90-day rule is just one of several counterproductive barriers that the Administration failed to take action to eliminate, leaving too many New Yorkers stuck in shelters far longer than necessary. The efforts to transition people from homeless shelters to permanent housing have been inadequate, straining the City’s shelter capacity under additional pressures. While we welcome the Administration finally seeming to drop its opposition to end the 90-day rule, the Council’s legislation importantly codifies the change and provides a more comprehensive approach to remove other obstacles to housing vouchers that can help protect New Yorkers. The only reliable path forward to truly confront the city’s eviction and homelessness crises is for the Mayor to sign the entire package of legislation.”

“The policies and systems we have in place right now to address homelessness within our city do not work,” said Deputy Speaker Diana Ayala. “Rather than reforming the system to prevent families from becoming homeless, our current policy is to force New Yorkers into the shelter system before we agree to help them. It doesn’t make sense and the City Council acknowledged that. We collectively took a stand and passed a package of bills aimed at addressing the issue. I ask the Mayor to join the City Council in putting the needs of New Yorkers first.”

“We are at a critical juncture in our city’s housing and homelessness crisis, with record levels of individuals and families affected, especially as we welcome new New Yorkers,” said Council Member Pierina Sanchez. “My district knows the heartbreaking consequences firsthand. One in ten households of Bronx community district 5 faced eviction last year. This has meant more children forced to commute over 90 minutes from shelters in Queens or Brooklyn to the Bronx, severing vital social bonds and support networks that are crucial for their development. As we welcome new New Yorkers, we need solutions that ease our over-burdened systems and stabilize our communities. This is why our Council passed Int 893 and Int 894, which position CityFHEPS as an upstream eviction prevention tool. Int. 893 would end the requirement that a family become homeless before they are eligible for a voucher, keeping families in their homes and out of shelter. Int. 894 will ease work and income requirements, again, preventing folks from entering shelter in the first place. These bills are fiscally prudent. Per the Mayor’s Housing Blueprint, it cost the city nearly $8,773 per month to house a family of two in the shelter system in 2022. A CityFHEPS voucher for the same family would cost a maximum of $2,387, and probably less, resulting in a lower total annual expense. Signing these bills would represent commitment to fighting for housing and against homelessness. I urge the Mayor to sign these bills into law.”

“A comfortable, reliable home is the essential pillar of a dignified life, and a key foundation of true public safety, not to mention public health,” said Council Member Tiffany Cabán. “The bills recently passed by Council, taken together, constitute an important step toward a city where the purpose of the housing system is guaranteeing all New Yorkers housing, not maximizing profits for corporate landlords and billionaire developers. In the interest of safety, health, and dignity, the Mayor must move swiftly to sign this critical package of bills into law.”

The bills, which include elimination of the rule that requires individuals to stay in a homeless shelter for 90 consecutive days before qualifying for a CityFHEPS housing voucher, also help ensure vouchers can prevent evictions, do not undermine economic advancement, and are adequately valued to include utility costs.

Introduction 878-A, sponsored by Deputy Speaker Diana Ayala, would remove shelter stay as a precondition to CityFHEPS eligibility. This would remove eligibility barriers, reduce lengths of stay in the shelter system and prevent new shelter entrants.

Introduction 893-A, sponsored by Council Member Pierina Sanchez, would remove certain eligibility restrictions for CityFHEPS to allow applicants at risk of eviction or experiencing homelessness access to vouchers. 

Introduction 894-A, sponsored by Council Member Pierina Sanchez, would change the eligibility for a CityFHEPS voucher from 200 percent of the federal poverty level to 50 percent of the area median income and remove work and source of income requirements that make it difficult for individuals to pursue employment and housing concurrently.

Introduction 229-A, sponsored by Council Member Tiffany Cabán, would prohibit the Department of Social Services from deducting a utility allowance from the maximum amount of a CityFHEPS voucher, except in limited circumstances.

Alongside the CityFHEPS bills, the Council has pushed for increased funding for the city’s affordable housing capital budget, right-to-counsel program, and agencies responsible for homelessness and housing, like the Department of Homeless Services, Human Resources Administration, Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and New York City Housing Authority. 

“Low-income and immigrant New Yorkers are struggling to deal with the increasingly drastic affordability and shelter crises – but with the bold action taken by the City Council, there is a path forward to permanent housing and self-sufficiency,” said Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director of New York Immigration Coalition. “Mayor Adams is rightfully ending the 90-day rule for the CityFHEPS voucher program, but this step is not enough to address the magnitude of our current situation. If we continue putting forward half-measures and band-aid fixes, we are destined to perpetuate the longstanding problems of our City’s overburdened shelter system. Mayor Adams must sign the entire City Council package, to expand eligibility to vouchers and help New Yorkers skip entering the shelter system altogether. With these cost-effective policies in place, New York families will be able to move out of the shelters and streets, and into permanent housing where they can begin to build the lives they deserve.”

“We must remain focused on implementing solutions that prevent homelessness, rapidly rehouse homeless New Yorkers, and avoid petty distractions in the form of a Mayoral veto,” said Celina Trowell, Homelessness Union Organizer at VOCAL-NY. “If we had a real partner at Gracie Mansion, the administration would have ended the abhorrent 90-day rule unilaterally instead of the Council having to force the Mayor’s hand by passing Int. 878-A. We hope this executive action honors the full scope of Int. 878-A and strongly urge the Mayor to sign the CityFHEPS reforms passed by the Council, including Int. 229-A, Int. 894-A and Int. 893-A.”

“Temporary suspension of a bad policy is fine, but permanent legislation to end it is much better,” said Jose Lopez, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. “We urge the Mayor to immediately sign the Council’s strong CityFHEPS package, which includes several measures that will help get New Yorkers out of the streets and shelter system, and into permanent housing.”

“We welcome this decision by the Adams Administration to suspend the arbitrary and punitive ‘90-day rule,’ an overhaul we have long advocated for,” said Judith Goldiner, attorney-in-charge of the Civil Law Reform Unit at The Legal Aid Society. “However, this should not supplant enacting the package of comprehensive CityFHEPS reforms recently passed by the Council that would improve housing stability for the thousands of New Yorkers who are experiencing or on the verge of homelessness. Following Albany’s failure to advance any significant housing policy this session to address the state’s unprecedented housing crisis, it’s now incumbent on Mayor Adams to sign these crucial bills into law immediately.”

“While we applaud the Mayor’s decision to take quick executive action to eliminate the 90-day rule, this reform alone is not enough, said Catherine Trapani, Executive Director of Homeless Services United. “Our City is facing an enormous crisis and we need the response of our government to match the magnitude of the need. The package of bills passed by the City Council not only addresses the 90-day rule but also makes several other critical changes to streamline eligibility for housing assistance for those living in shelter while also improving our ability to prevent people from having to enter shelter in the first place. Taken together, once enacted, these reforms will greatly reduce pressure on our overburdened shelter system. We urge the mayor to sign the Council’s bills and move to implement all of them as quickly as possible.”

“Housing vouchers are one of the best tools we have to support homeless families, but we all know they can be more effective. This crisis requires creative solutions and I was proud to work with the City Council on historic legislation to improve CityFHEPS vouchers — especially repealing the 90-Day Rule — so we can help homeless New Yorkers move out of shelter faster, creating more capacity for those seeking asylum and saving the city millions of dollars,” said Christine C. Quinn, President & CEO of Win, the largest provider of shelter and supportive services for homeless families with children in New York City & the nation. “While I applaud Mayor Adams for repealing the outdated, illogical 90-Day Rule more must be done to break the cycle of homelessness — and I stand with the Council in urging him to sign the entire package of housing voucher reforms.”

“The groundbreaking CityFHEPS bill package passed by the New York City Council on May 25th provides critical improvements to the efficacy of the voucher program for New Yorkers in need of housing and at risk of eviction. These four pieces of legislation will together expand eligibility, eliminate requirements that currently hinder efficient access to assistance, and ensure that the full value of the voucher can be utilized. While we appreciate the administration’s move to eliminate the 90-day waiting period for those in DHS shelters to apply for CityFHEPS, this is just one of several critical changes these bills would enact. We urge Mayor Adams to sign the entire package into law and implement it as quickly as possible. Multiple tools are needed to successfully combat homelessness, and effective vouchers that allow households to both obtain and maintain housing in the community is an essential one of those tools. As we celebrate the City Council’s bold move to alleviate homelessness, we recognize that the City cannot do this work alone. The State and Federal governments must provide support to ensure these efforts can be sustained into the future,” said Frederick Shack, Chief Executive Officer of Urban Pathways.