On Sunday, January 7th, New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and the Legal Aid Society announced plans to sue Mayor Eric Adams’ administration if it fails to implement new laws designed to expand housing aid to more low-income New Yorkers. This legal threat underscores the escalating tension between the city’s legislative body and the mayor’s office over housing policy and the city’s approach to its homelessness crisis.
In May, the City Council passed measures to provide CityFHEPS housing vouchers to people facing eviction before they’re forced to enter homeless shelters and to make more New Yorkers eligible for the subsidies. Despite Mayor Adams’ opposition and subsequent veto of the four-bill package, the Council overrode his veto a month later. The mayor has continued to criticize the City Council’s legislation, citing a $17 billion price tag estimated by his budget office. However, the city’s Independent Budget Office countered this claim, suggesting that the administration had inflated the package’s cost with high per-voucher cost estimates.
City Council Speaker Adams emphasized the importance of these tools in addressing the city’s record-high homelessness and keeping more low-income renters in their apartments. In a letter to Department of Social Services Commissioner Molly Park, she stated that the City Council would sue if the new laws, scheduled to take effect on February 7, are not implemented.
The Legal Aid Society also announced plans to sue the administration on behalf of its clients. Robert Desir, an attorney with the group, highlighted the urgency of the reforms in light of the surging shelter population and citywide evictions.
In response, Mayor Adams’ office stated that the city had already implemented certain aspects of the Council’s legislation, including scrapping a rule requiring residents to be in the city’s shelter system for 90 days before becoming eligible for a CityFHEPS voucher and expanding the use of the vouchers to areas beyond the five boroughs. The administration also pointed to the city’s budgetary constraints, including a $7 billion budget gap, as a challenge in fully implementing the legislation.
The CityFHEPS voucher program, which covers the majority of rent for low-income New Yorkers experiencing homelessness, has helped more than 30,000 New Yorkers find and maintain permanent housing. However, administrative problems and discrimination by landlords and agents have frequently hampered the move-in process.
This impending legal battle underscores the need for collaborative efforts between the city’s legislative and executive branches to find effective solutions for the city’s most vulnerable residents.