New York City Mayor Eric Adams took a big step this week towards getting more homeless New Yorkers into permanent housing more quickly. But it’s not as big of a step as the City Council would like to take.
On Friday morning, Adams issued an emergency rule change that eliminates the longstanding rule requiring people to stay in the shelter system for 90 days before becoming eligible for CityFHEPS rental assistance vouchers. It’s a step that housing advocates have long called for. “There are many rivers that feed the sea of homelessness,” Adams said. “Today, we’re damming one.” According to the language in the rule change, the 90-day rule will be suspended for 60 days while the administration works on a permanent elimination of the rule.
Adams’ executive order comes just weeks after the City Council passed a package of legislation that would permanently eliminate the 90-day rule and expand eligibility for the rental vouchers, making anyone at risk of eviction or experiencing homelessness eligible for a voucher. Each of the bills in the package passed with enough votes to override a potential mayoral veto.
The Adams administration has opposed that package of bills, with the mayor arguing that the additional measures in the council’s package will come at a great cost to taxpayers while de-prioritizing those in greatest need of housing assistance.
On Friday, Adams criticized the bill package but declined to say whether or not he planned to veto the council legislation. He insisted the city can’t afford the budget costs associated with it, which City Hall has estimated to be more than $17 billion over five years. “When you look at the entire package that they presented, some of the items in that package are problematic,” Adams said, after noting that the administration and the City Council are on the same page about getting rid of the 90-day rule.
Adams would not elaborate when asked specifically by a reporter whether his signing of this executive order is an attempt to set up a veto of the council’s package – potentially in a bid to pick off council members who would accept eliminating the 90-day rule as a compromise and therefore not vote to override a veto.
In statements on Friday, City Council members called on the mayor to sign the council’s full package of bills. “While we welcome the Administration finally seeming to drop its opposition to end the 90-day rule, the Council’s legislation importantly codifies the change and provides a more comprehensive approach to remove other obstacles to housing vouchers that can help protect New Yorkers,” said Council Speaker Adrienne Adams. “The only reliable path forward to truly confront the city's eviction and homelessness crises is for the Mayor to sign the entire package of legislation.”
City Hall and the City Council have offered diverging versions of what the Adams administration supported in negotiations leading up to the council’s passage of this legislation. City Hall previously told City & State that it supported getting rid of the 90-day rule, but only for families, which council leaders said would have been a nonstarter anyways because they wanted to get rid of it for everyone. Adams’ executive order now does, in fact, eliminate the rule for both single adults and families.
City Council Member Diana Ayala, who sponsored the council bill to eliminate the 90-day rule, said that she was happy to see the administration is at least in agreement about ending the rule now. “Eliminating it is a good thing and it moves the needle forward,” Ayala told City & State. “The rest of the package, I guess we’ll see.”
Ayala and Mandela Jones, a council spokesperson, both said that the council has enough votes to override a veto if Adams eventually moves to block the legislation. “I don’t think that this executive order does anything to pick off votes,” Ayala said. “We still maintain a good hold of our majority to override a veto, if in fact that happened.”
Shams DaBaron, an advocate for homeless New Yorkers, appeared at the mayor’s press conference on Friday morning and applauded the executive order. DaBaron, a close ally of the mayor, later told City & State that he is also concerned that the council’s legislation would keep those most in need from being prioritized. “I totally agree with the mayor that the package is problematic,” DaBaron said. “Just from my experience and when you really look at it. My call is for them to work together and get to a sensible solution.”
Christine Quinn, the former City Council speaker who is now president and CEO of shelter provider Win, was also quoted in the mayor’s press release praising the emergency rule change. But Quinn also released a separate statement calling for the mayor to sign the council package.
“I applaud Mayor Adams for finally putting an end to this unjust and unjustifiable policy, saving taxpayer money, increasing shelter capacity, and most importantly giving thousands of New Yorkers the power to put a permanent roof over their heads,” she said in the statement. “But as the city continues to face its worst homeless crisis since the Great Depression, more must be done … If we truly want to break the cycle of homelessness in New York, Mayor Adams must immediately sign these bills into law. Homeless families deserve nothing less.”