The City Council is voting on a package of bills designed to significantly expand the city's rental assistance infrastructure, while New York stares down a homelessness and affordability crisis.
The bills are expected to be approved by the full Council Thursday afternoon, after being voted out of the general welfare committee Wednesday.
One bill sponsored by Council Member Tiffany Cabán would reduce the amount people with city vouchers pay for utilities. It would prohibit the Department of Social Services from deducting the maximum utility allowance based on the actual cost of rent — instead requiring the department to base the amount on what tenants pay now. The department would be required to issue a check to households that covers the difference.
A bill sponsored by committee chair Diane Ayala would prohibit the city Department of Social Services from requiring an applicant for a rental assistance voucher to have resided or reside in a shelter. Currently, individuals have to spend 90 days in a city shelter before they can apply for the City Fighting Homelessness and Eviction Prevention Supplement, or CityFHEPS, program.
“This Giuliani era relic has put unnecessary burdens on those who are seeking permanent housing. It has also exacerbated existing strains on our shelter system preventing individual families from moving out and becoming stably housed as early as they can,” Ayala said during Wednesday’s committee hearing. “The rule is arduous. It’s about time we eliminate it.”
A bill sponsored by Council Member Pierina Ana Sanchez would expand eligibility for a rental assistance voucher to any applicant who is a household at risk of eviction or experiencing homelessness.
Another bill sponsored by Sanchez would prohibit the social services department from basing eligibility for a rental assistance voucher on an applicant’s employment status or source of income. This bill would also codify the income eligibility requirements for a rental assistance voucher.
Council Member Nantasha Williams voted to push the bills out of committee, but expressed her concern over how feasible it will be to carry out the new laws, calling out Mayor Eric Adams’ administration directly.
“We have heard countless hearings about the backlog,” she said Wednesday. “We continue to hear about vacancies and the inability for the administration to carry out existing work.”
The Daily News editorial board panned the bills saying they are too expansive.
“If the legislation was passed, the [CityFHEPS] program would go from a relatively targeted initiative to move unhoused people and families into permanent homes to an expansive de facto entitlement for a huge swath of low-income New Yorkers,” the board wrote Thursday.
Each of the bills has more than 30 co-sponsors in the 51-member Council, all but guaranteeing their passage Thursday.
The bills will take effect 180 days after they become law.