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Mayor Adams feuds with City Council over expansion of rental vouchers


(The Center Square) — New York City Mayor Eric Adams is feuding with the City Council over a plan to expand taxpayer-funded rental vouchers to New Yorkers facing eviction.

The City Council approved a resolution giving Speaker Adrienne Adams the authority to sue the mayor’s office for failing to implement three laws overhauling the city’s rental assistance program, known as CityFHEPS.

“It’s to authorize our ability to take some type of legal action to ensure that our laws can help New Yorkers facing the twin crises of rising eviction and homelessness and that the laws are actually implemented,” Speaker Adams said in remarks ahead of the vote.

The package of bills would allow New Yorkers facing eviction to apply for rental vouchers and eliminate a rule requiring people to stay in shelters for 90 days before they are eligible to receive a voucher. It also prohibits landlords from deducting utility bill charges from a voucher and raises the cutoff income level to qualify for assistance.

Last year, Adams vetoed the proposal, saying it would be too costly to the city. He estimated the price tag at $17 billion over five years, $7 billion more than the Council projected.

But the Council pushed back against Adams’ objections to the bill, overriding his veto by a vote of 42-8 in July. Adams gave the mayor until Feb. 7 to implement the law but said he hasn’t complied with the demands. She told reporters on Thursday that she hasn’t decided if the council will proceed with litigation.

In December, New York City Department of Social Services Commissioner Molly Wasow Park sent a letter to the Council saying the Adams administration couldn’t implement the new law due to “substantial financial, operational and legal issues.” She said the budget approved by the council doesn’t include “sufficient” money to “provide a voucher for every newly eligible person.”

Park said the administration hopes to avoid litigation, but if that happens, it is prepared to “present additional arguments founded in law and public policy.”

“In view of our shared goals of making sure that as many people as possible remain stably and permanently housed, we hope to avoid the protected time and expense of litigation and work collaboratively with the council to address the city’s ongoing homelessness crisis,” she wrote.

Under the CityFHEPS program, a household must have a gross income at or below 200% of the federal poverty level and face eviction. About 36,000 households use the program, according to the city.

The city’s Independent Budget Office has estimated that expanding the rental voucher program would cost anywhere from $3 billion to $36 billion over the next five years.

The dispute over implementing the rental voucher law is the latest development in a widening intra-party rift between Adams and the Democratic-led Council, which recently overrode the mayor’s vetoes of a police stop bill and a ban on solitary confinement in city jails.

It also comes as the city grapples with the influx of tens of thousands of migrants that have pushed its emergency shelter system to the brink of collapse.

The city is currently providing temporary housing and other needs for about 65,000 migrants, which has cost more than $2 billion over the past year.