Veto of bills to help New Yorkers prolongs enactment of solutions to record homelessness and fuels worsening eviction crisis in city

City Hall, NY – In response to Mayor Adams’ veto of housing voucher bills overwhelmingly passed by the Council, the New York City Council, homeless services providers, and advocates condemned the mayor’s action as a harmful act of useless political theater that delays solutions to homelessness and fuels a worsening eviction crisis. The four bills to remove bureaucratic barriers that block New Yorkers’ utilization of CityFHEPS housing vouchers were passed by the Council on May 25 by votes of 41 to 7, far more than necessary to override a mayoral veto.

For months, the Administration has demonstrated an inability and unwillingness to negotiate this legislative package in a constructive way, resulting in the Council moving forward with the passage of these bills without their participation.

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 undermined New Yorkers’ use of CityFHEPS housing vouchers was a critical and long overdue step to help people move out of shelters, maintain stable housing, and reduce homelessness,” said Speaker Adrienne Adams. “The 90-day rule is just one of several counterproductive barriers that this 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 and prevent increasing numbers of evictions during this Administration have been inadequate, straining the City’s shelter capacity under additional pressures. Belatedly dropping its opposition to ending the 90-day rule while vetoing Council legislation that provides comprehensive solutions to help New Yorkers is a futile political act. The mayor is only hurting the city by delaying solutions and contributing to the eviction crisis that leads more New Yorkers to lose their homes, become homeless, and join the already-high shelter population. The Council is prepared to override the mayor’s veto to truly confront the rapidly deteriorating eviction and homelessness crises made worse by this Administration’s budget cuts and failure to enact solutions.”

“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. Mayor Adams decision to veto the package, while well within his rights, is not in the best interest of New Yorkers. If the Mayor won’t join the City Council in addressing homelessness in our city, then we’ll do it without him.”

“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. Our city needs 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. To veto these bills at this time is shortsighted. This body stands strong in our unwavering dedication to fighting for housing and against homelessness.”

“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 housing system guarantees all New Yorkers housing, rather than maximizing profits for corporate landlords and billionaire developers. The mayor has now decided to veto, a harmful decision that my colleagues and I will not let stand.”

The bills, which include elimination of the rule that requires individuals to stay in a homeless shelter for ninety 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.

“The Mayor’s decision to veto legislation that will reduce homelessness at a time when the numbers of people living in shelters is at a record high defies logic,” said Catherine Trapani, Executive Director of Homeless Services United. “The 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 makes several 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. These reforms will greatly reduce pressure on our overburdened shelter system and while providing critical support to New Yorkers in need. We urge the Council to override the mayor’s veto and do everything in its power to ensure the legislation is implemented.”

“It’s appalling that Mayor Adams would veto common sense legislation that would help thousands of people leave the shelter system and get on the path to stability and self-sufficiency! Too many families are stuck in the shelter system for prolonged times because of New York’s housing affordability crisis, yet, the Mayor has presented no counter proposals to the City Council’s recently passed housing package other than more austerity measures and HERRCs. These are not solutions but bandaids that continue to perpetuate the harms of an overburdened shelter system. The NYC Council must override the Mayor’s veto immediately and ensure that every New York family has a fair shot at finding the affordable housing they need to build safe and secure futures for their families,” said Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition.

“We denounce Mayor Adams’ decision to veto the bills of the CityFHEPS package,” said Celina Trowell, Homelessness Union Organizer at VOCAL-NY. “After years of dedicated advocacy, it has taken the leadership of City Council and the directly-impacted people of New York City to improve this rental assistance program. All the while, the Mayor has offered zero concrete solutions in the 18 months since he’s been in office, having failed to get any sensible “stuff done” to address the homelessness and housing crisis. We implore and call on members of the City Council to override the Mayor’s veto and remain diligently committed to implementing solid solutions that prevent homelessness, reduces the city’s bloated shelter population and costs, and rapidly rehouse homeless New Yorkers. The people of New York City are in critical need of the CityFHEPS reforms that Int. 229-A, Int. 878-A, Int. 894-A and Int. 893-A address. We cannot allow a veto to derail an opportunity that will positively impact tens of thousands of constituents. We call on New York City Council to take a united stand to boldly protect homeless New Yorkers and those at risk, by overriding Mayor Eric Adams veto of the CityFHEPS bill package.”

“The Mayor is putting petty politics above the need for long-term solutions to tackle homelessness in our city,” said Jose Lopez, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. “The Council overwhelmingly passed a strong housing package that will help get New Yorkers out of the streets and shelter system, and into permanent housing. Instead of continuing to insist on acting alone with short-term Band-Aids, the Mayor should embrace their smart solutions and sign all four bills into law immediately. If he continues to obstruct, the Council should override his veto right away.”

“The Mayor’s veto of a package of legislation that would have greatly increased housing stability for our clients is a needless and unfortunate political stunt that delays viable solutions to combat our worsening homelessness and eviction crises,” said Adriene Holder, chief attorney of the Civil Practice at The Legal Aid Society. “New Yorkers deserve leadership from City Hall on policies that keep people safely housed, out of local shelters and off of city streets. We now implore the City Council to immediately override this veto to secure the reforms needed to improve CityFHEPS and outcomes for some of our most vulnerable neighbors who are simply in search of a place to call home.”

“New York is facing the worst homelessness crisis since the Great Depression — but today, the Mayor vetoed a historic legislative package that would have helped families move out of shelter sooner and saved 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 and the nation. “Make no mistake, vetoing these bills will prolong homelessness for New Yorkers and put an unnecessary strain on the City’s budget. Homeless New Yorkers can’t wait any longer for these common sense fixes — and I look forward to working with our champions on the City Council to override this veto and enact these critical pieces of legislation.”

“The Mayor’s decision to veto the CityFHEPS bill package is not just disappointing. This action will also have a profoundly detrimental effect on the thousands of individuals and families waiting for housing so they can exit shelter, while allowing countless more households to fall into homelessness instead of remaining stably housed. These four pieces of legislation would expand eligibility, eliminate requirements that currently hinder efficient access to assistance, and ensure that the full value of the voucher can be utilized. Multiple tools at the City, State, and Federal levels are needed to successfully combat homelessness, and effective vouchers that allow households to both obtain and maintain housing in the community is an important one. This bill package would realize the potential of the CityFHEPS program to be a much more effective tool in housing people and preventing eviction across the city. We stand with the City Council’s bold move to alleviate homelessness and urge them to override the Mayor’s veto,” said Frederick Shack, Chief Executive Officer of Urban Pathways.

“We keep kicking the can down the road when it comes to our housing crisis,” said David R. Jones, President and CEO of the Community Service Society. “An immediate first step for this crisis is getting more New Yorkers out of the city’s shelters into safe and affordable housing. Legislation passed last month by the City Council, Intros 878, 893, 894, and 229, is an important step toward solving the city’s homelessness crisis by dramatically improving the CityFHEPs rental voucher program. Instead of signing and celebrating those bills, the Mayor has vetoed them. In order to turn the homelessness crisis around, the City Council must override this veto and guide the city on a path toward housing for all. That should be a moral imperative.”

“Neighbors Together vehemently denounces Mayor Adams’ alarming decision to veto the CityFHEPS bills today, a move that blatantly disregards the pressing need to tackle the homelessness crisis head-on. This bill package will provide New Yorkers facing homelessness with much-needed support and stability. By vetoing these bills, Mayor Adams not only undermines the collaborative efforts to improve the lives of thousands of individuals, but also needlessly prolongs their suffering. We urgently implore the City Council to exercise their authority and override this detrimental veto, demonstrating their unwavering commitment to confronting homelessness and ensuring the welfare of our fellow New Yorkers,” said Amy Blumsack Director of Organizing & Policy, Neighbors Together.