New York state's highest appellate court has struck down rules created by the Bloomberg administration that make it tougher for those in need to enter the city's shelter system.

While the ruling itself [PDF] is based on the Department of Homeless Services implementing the policy without proper approval from the City Council, the six judges conclude that the "concrete provisions substantially curtail, if not eliminate, an intake worker's discretion to grant Temporary Housing Assistance benefits." The City had argued that the rules allowed DHS workers a degree of leeway with applying them to New Yorkers seeking housing assistance, and therefore didn't require the Council's assent.

"The opinion is an important victory, not only for New York City’s homeless adults, but also for the principles of openness and accountability that are codified in the City Administrative Procedure Act," Speaker Christine Quinn said in a statement. "As the Court rightly held, the Mayor cannot unilaterally impose policies that would have such significant impact without even notifying the public or receiving comments."

The rules mandate that applicants with "tenancy rights at any housing option" be denied access to the system, and required applicants to virtually liquidate their assets before being granted a slot.

Homelessness has become an epidemic in New York City over the past several years, with more than 50,000 people currently on Temporary Housing Assistance.