Mayor Eric Adams on Friday vetoed four City Council bills aimed at expanding city housing vouchers to a broader swath of people amid Gotham’s ongoing homeless and migrant crises.
The move comes a week after the mayor issued an executive action to eliminate a rule that individuals and families must spend 90 days in city shelters before being eligible for the vouchers — known as CityFHEPS. While that action duplicated one of the bills in the package, the mayor opposed the rest of the items contained in the four bills, which would make the vouchers available to those facing eviction and increase the income threshold to be eligible. The veto is only Adams’ second since taking office in January 2022.
The council passed all of the bills by a 41-7 vote margin on May 25, giving it more than enough votes to override the mayor’s veto, which Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said in a statement Friday the council is “prepared” to do. City lawmakers have a month from their next formal convening, either when they gather to vote on the next year’s budget or their next Stated Meeting, scheduled for July 13, to override the mayor’s veto, according to the speaker’s office.
The move also comes as the mayor and council are in the thick of negotiations over Fiscal Year 2024 budget, which is due next Friday.
In a lengthy statement released Friday afternoon, the mayor said he “helped” New Yorkers by vetoing bills that would take the city “backwards.” He decried the legislation, saying the city doesn’t have enough available units to keep up with the demand the increased vouchers would create, and it would cost taxpayers too much money.
“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,” Adams said. “The bills not only create expectations among vulnerable New Yorkers that cannot be met, they also take aim at the wrong problem.”
Adams said the bills would mean less available vouchers for those who are most in need, homeless New Yorkers, by exacerbating an already large backlog of voucher-holders unable to obtain housing.
“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,” the mayor said. “They would even give some New Yorkers access to a housing voucher just because they received a rent demand letter from their landlord after being a few weeks late on their payment.”
The mayor said his office supported ending the 90 rule and attempted to work on that particular measure with the council for months, but Council Speaker Adrienne Adams’ office has disputed that account.
“We always seek to work collaboratively with the City Council, and months ago our administration offered to partner with councilmembers to advance the 90-day length of stay policy change, but they rejected that offer and chose to move ahead on their own,” he said. “What they passed was a package of bills that would make it harder for those experiencing homelessness to find a permanent home.”
The council passed the bills as a way to ease the strain on the city’s shelter population, which is bursting at the seams due to the influx of tens of thousands of migrants over the past year, by moving more people into permanent housing. Currently there are nearly 99,000 people living in city homeless shelters, including 48,700 migrants in the city’s care.
The bills are also designed to prevent additional people from entering city shelters after getting evicted from their apartments.
But Speaker Adams, in a statement, fired back, labeling the move a “futile political act.” She also took aim at the administration’s efforts so far to transition homeless individuals out of shelters and into permanent housing, calling them “inadequate.”
“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 speaker said. “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.”
Deputy Council Speaker Diana Ayala, who sponsored one of the bills and has personally experienced homelessness, said the mayor’s move 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,” Ayala said in a statement.
Progressive City Council Member Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn), who is a frequent critic of the mayor, said the council will override the mayor’s action and said it’s a “waste of a veto.”
“He should be a mayor for the people, not for those who financed his campaign on Wall Street,” Barron said. “I think it’s him being stubborn, being the type of mayor that he’s on a delusional power trip.”