Mayor Eric Adams vetoed a four-bill package expanding the CityFHEPS voucher program this past Friday, June 23. But the decision might be null given the legislations’ passage is “veto-proof.”
The City Council passed the bill package in May with more than a 2/3rds vote, making it “veto-proof” when it reached Adams’ desk. The quartet of legislation intends to eliminate barriers for obtaining CityFHEPS rental assistance vouchers which supplements low-income New Yorkers’ ability to search and keep housing. All this comes at a time when the city’s median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is reportedly over $3,000 and the shelter system is struggling to keep up with housing newly-arrived migrants bused from the southern border.
A spokesperson for the mayor pointed to Adams’ statement, which argued the bill package “would make it harder for New Yorkers to move from shelter into permanent housing.”
“[The] option to provide vouchers to every person who would be eligible under the Council’s bills is far beyond what the city can provide,” said Adams. “The bills not only create expectations among vulnerable New Yorkers that cannot be met, they also take aim at the wrong problem. Instead of tackling decades of exclusionary zoning policies that have prevented our city from building an adequate housing supply—which has left nearly 20,000 current voucher holders unable to find housing—these bills would remove the city’s ability to target limited resources for those most in need.”
Given the 41-7 supermajority vote behind all four bills, the city council can override Mayor Adams’ veto. And seems like it will. Speaker Adrienne Adams said she and her colleagues are prepared to overrule the mayor’s decision “to truly confront the rapidly deteriorating eviction and homelessness crises made worse by this Administration’s budget cuts and failure to enact solutions.”
While Mayor Adams long opposed the four bills vetoed in the package, he was on board with an emergency rule change ending the eligibility mandate tying CityFHEPS vouchers to a 90-day city shelter stay earlier in the month. Critics called the decision a cherry-picked “piecemeal solution.”
“New Yorkers who are experiencing homelessness are not fooled by the mayor’s lackluster endorsement of the 90-day rule reform,” said VOCAL-NY Homelessness Union’s Milton Perez. “Time and time again folks in my community have laid out the problems with CityFHEPS for this mayor and his administration, and they go beyond a 90-day waiting period. The fact that this mayor would consider vetoing legislation, but adopt changes to the 90-day rule—something that he could have done in his first days in office—proves that this move is a petty, political distraction.”
This veto also coincides with Adams’ recent attempt to scale back the four-decade old Callahan consent decree—better known as the city’s established legal right-to-shelter—due to the migrant influx stemming from Title 42’s expiration, which ended the Trump-era policy curbing southern border entry for asylum seekers under the pretense of curbing COVID-19 spread. The mayor sought to suspend the law short term, arguing that the mandate would lead to overwhelming the city’s temporary housing system. A right-to-shelter court conference scheduled for this week was pushed back to next month.
Legal Aid Society staff attorney Josh Goldfein says Adams’ request for unilateral permissions to suspend right-to-shelter would make the Callahan consent decree “useless” and potentially open the door to more street homelessness. And advocates see the vetoed bill package as an alternative way to free up shelter space by funneling currently unhoused New Yorkers into permanent housing by expanding the voucher system.
“The question that the mayor is interested in right now is what are the limits of what the city is required to do,” said Goldfein. “There’s two answers to that question: one, what are they legally required to do by this consent decree [and two if] there are other rules that apply. The consent decree is not the beginning and end of all their responsibilities. There are state statutes, there are city statutes, there are federal rules that apply to them.
“The bigger question is how are we going to take care of people who are here. I think nobody wants to see people sleeping on the street.”
According to the Coalition for the Homeless, 88% of heads of shelter households are Black and/or brown. Recent vigilantism against street homeless New Yorkers made front page news earlier this year when white ex-marine Daniel Penny killed unhoused Black man Jordan Neely on a city subway.