City Hall, NY – Today, the New York City Council held a press conference where New Yorkers with experience of homelessness and housing insecurity spoke about the hardships and the difficulties of living without stable housing. The group, which included both individuals newly eligible under the laws and current CityFHEPS recipients, called on the Mayor and Department of Social Services (DSS) to implement Local Laws 99, 100, 101, and 102 to better support homeless New Yorkers and avoid the trauma and destabilization of eviction.
The press conference comes a day after Council Speaker Adrienne Adams sent a letter to the DSS Commissioner warning that the Council would take legal action if the agency does not “take concrete, verifiable steps to implement these local laws by February 7, 2024.” Despite the homeless shelter population exceeding 100,000 people, the Administration has indicated it does not plan to comply with the laws that would help New Yorkers transition from shelters and avoid entering them.
“The Council advanced reforms to the CityFHEPS program to confront record homelessness and the eviction crisis in our city,” said Speaker Adrienne Adams. “It is imperative that the Administration takes concrete and meaningful steps to implement these new laws. Keeping New Yorkers at-risk of eviction in their homes and providing pathways to stable, permanent housing from shelters must continue to be a priority for this city.”
“CityFHEPS creates a real pathway for people to exit shelters, while helping residents at risk of eviction to remain in their homes instead of slipping into homelessness,” said Deputy Speaker Diana Ayala. “As a single mother nearly three decades ago, rental assistance was my ticket to safety and stability. New Yorkers today deserve the same support that helped me become self-sufficient and access opportunity. With rates of homelessness and evictions in our city exceedingly high we must utilize every tool at our disposal to ensure New Yorkers can access permanent and stable housing. As a lifeline for New Yorkers, it is imperative that the Administration and city agencies successfully implement CityFHEPS.”
“I’m tired of Mayor Adams showing such contempt for the Council, our Speaker, and New Yorkers facing homelessness” said Council Member Tiffany Cabán. “First, he pretended he was going to respect our budget negotiations, only to unilaterally dictate his own budget cuts later in the year, and now he’s declining to do his job and execute the laws of our city? Enough. The housing crisis is too critical for the Mayor to turn his back on New Yorkers in need of urgent relief. This legislation is not a helpful suggestion, it is the law of the land. Mayor Adams is obligated to implement it.”
“Homelessness is not an acronym or a trauma quota that those with privilege and power should get to decide when is met. Homelessness is an experience that, since being initially promised vouchers in 2016, more than 10,000 young people have had to endure because they were not given the support they needed to exit. I was one of those young people. As a teenager it took me seven years before I was finally able to secure stable housing. That was seven years too long,” said Coalition for Homeless Youth Advocacy Fellow Zaqanah Stevens. “The Mayor regularly declares how much he cares about the young people in this city, and these laws put those declarations of care to the test—a test the mayor is failing. We know how to solve youth homelessness. It is a policy choice that it persists. Mayor Adams refusing to implement these laws, which will finally give young people in DYCD Runaway and Homeless Youth programs access to CityFHEPS vouchers, is yet another example in a long history of our city failing homeless youth. Young people need and deserve housing, and they need a leader who will actually ‘get stuff done’ for them, not just talk about it.”
“Youth experiencing homelessness should not have to be forced to leave a youth shelter and enter an adult shelter to be eligible for a CityFHEPS voucher. Solely linking housing opportunities like CityFHEPS to the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) is mentally taxing and just wrong and unjust,” said NYC Youth Action Board Ambassador Zulaki Reid. “Youth in Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) Runaway and Homeless Youth programs are just as homeless as their peers in DHS shelters and should be given the same opportunities. The Mayor not implementing these laws to give youth in DYCD programs access to CityFHEPS goes against all of the advocacy the Youth Action Board (YAB) did to get these laws passed in the first place. That’s a slap in the face to me and everyone on the YAB, and it shows inconsideration on many levels. Mayor Adams refusing to implement these laws that will finally give youth in DYCD shelters access to vouchers not only shows young people that not everyone has to follow the law, but it also shows young people that he doesn’t care.”
“I don’t understand how the City is turning down one of the only concrete solutions on the table that can be implemented now to deal with this housing crisis,” said Patricia Glover, leader with the Safety Net Activists. “We can’t wait for years for new housing to be built and people can’t wait for solutions that are projected for 2025 or 2030. The City doesn’t have a back-up plan. We need these laws to be implemented now.”
“We need to actually start housing people instead of warehousing them in shelters,” said Calvin Michael, leader with the Safety Net Activists. “As someone who used CityFHEPS to move out of shelter, I know how important these Laws are to getting people housed. The City needs to follow them now.”
“With more than one hundred thousand New Yorkers experiencing homelessness in the City, we must remain focused on fighting for solutions for those in need,” said Milton Perez, Homelessness Union Leader at VOCAL-NY. “It is a shame that we must spend considerable time and energy fighting to implement the CityFHEPS package when its positive impact has already been established. Today, we should be focused on the next set of critical reforms, such as, identifying and lifting up additional fixes to CityFHEPS focused on accelerating housing placements, improving the application process, ensuring timely rental payments, and ending source of income discrimination.”
The laws, which took effect yesterday, are the following:
Local Law 99, sponsored by Council Member Tiffany Cabán, prohibits the Department of Social Services from deducting a utility allowance from the maximum amount of a CityFHEPS voucher, except in limited circumstances.
Local Law 100, sponsored by Deputy Speaker Diana Ayala, removes shelter stay as a precondition to CityFHEPS eligibility. This eliminates previous eligibility barriers, reduces lengths of stay in the shelter system and prevents new shelter entrants.
Local Law 101, sponsored by Council Member Pierina Sanchez, removes certain eligibility restrictions for CityFHEPS to allow applicants at risk of eviction or experiencing homelessness access to vouchers.
Local Law 102, sponsored by Council Member Pierina Sanchez, changes the eligibility for a CityFHEPS voucher from 200 percent of the federal poverty level to 50 percent of the area median income and removes work and source of income requirements that make it difficult for individuals to pursue employment and housing concurrently.