Advocates Seek to File Amicus Brief Over City’s Failure to Implement Legislative Reform of CityFHEPS

Suit seeks enactment of CityFHEPS reform passed into law by Council override of Adams’ veto.

Legislation would remove barriers to housing vouchers, preventing tens of thousands of New Yorkers from becoming homeless while saving the City thousands of dollars per household each month.

A coalition of advocates, including Win, Coalition for the Homeless, Help USA, Homeless Services United, Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing, New York Coalition for Homeless Youth, and Community Service Society of New York today sought leave to file an amicus brief seeking an immediate injunction in Marie Vincent et al. v. Mayor Eric Adams et al., a class action litigation that seeks to compel the Adams Administration to fully implement recently enacted reforms to the CityFHEPS housing voucher program. The four-law legislative package, passed into law by an overwhelming 42-8 City Council override of the Mayor’s veto, brings sweeping changes to the CityFHEPS program that will significantly expand eligibility that could prevent homelessness for tens of thousands of New Yorkers and allow thousands more to leave shelter permanently.

“CityFHEPS is a tried-and-true program that reduces homelessness in New York City. Implementing these laws will help families find stable, permanent housing and provide significant cost savings to the City,” said Christine Quinn, President & CEO of Win. “The Administration’s deliberate inaction not only makes it harder for families to exit shelter but undermines New York’s ability to combat the homelessness crisis we face today.”

The voucher reform, passed into law by the Council as a legislative package encompassing Local Laws 99, 100, 101, and 102, would no longer require a prior shelter stay to qualify for CityFHEPS, a longstanding barrier to voucher access. The legislation would drastically limit utility deductions from CityFHEPS vouchers, eliminate work requirements, and increase the income cap. When implemented together, these policies will aid Black and Brown communities that have disproportionately shouldered the homelessness crisis; in 2023, Black and Latinx New Yorkers comprised 30.0% and 60.3% of families in shelter, respectively. The average monthly cost for shelter ranges from $4,426 for singles to $7,138 for families. Meanwhile, the maximum monthly cost of a CityFHEPS voucher ranges from $2,440 (studio apartment, no utilities) to $3,777 (3-bedroom apartment with utilities). If implemented on a household-by-household and month-by-month basis, housing with a voucher will save the City thousands per household each month.

In 2023, housing subsidies were used by 81% of families with children who exited shelter, with only 0.3% of those families re-entering shelter, compared to 15.2% of families without subsidies. In recent years, the number of federal and local vouchers in New York has decreased sharply, falling from 141,509 to 111,662, compounding the growing homelessness crisis that routinely sees over 85,000 individuals in Department of Homeless Services shelters on a daily basis.

“There are over 146,000 people sleeping each night in New York City shelters, and thousands more either sleeping unsheltered on the streets or temporarily living doubled- and tripled-up in the homes of others. The City must do everything it can to help people living in shelter move to permanent housing and prevent more people from being evicted and entering the shelter system. Last year, the City Council passed legislation to expand the CityFHEPS program to help accomplish both goals. The refusal of Mayor Adams’ administration to implement these needed changes to the program is inexcusable, given the scale of the City’s housing crisis,” said Dave Giffen, Executive Director of the Coalition for the Homeless.

“The City must fully implement Local Laws 99, 100, 101, and 102 so that more tenants and people experiencing homelessness in New York City can access and maintain permanent housing. At a time when DHS shelters have been pushed to capacity and housing courts are overwhelmed by eviction cases, the City needs to increase the flexibility of the CityFHEPS voucher program. Further delay means more households evicted and people without the means to exit shelter. Implementing these laws is the right thing to do, as well as good fiscal policy.” said Kristin Miller, Executive Director of Homeless Services United.

“By implementing these critical reforms, the program will accelerate the process of transitioning homeless New Yorkers from shelters into safe, affordable homes and ensure other vulnerable New Yorkers can keep their housing permanently. This course of action not only mitigates the city’s homelessness challenge but also provides significant cost savings to the city,” said David R. Jones, President and CEO of the Community Service Society of New York.

“The most immediate remedy to reduce New York City’s homeless census is to provide a housing voucher for the thousands of additional homeless and at-risk New Yorkers who are granted eligibility under this legislation being blocked by this Mayor,” said David L. Greenberg, Executive Director of Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing. “The people’s house has spoken loud and clear; It’s time for our mayor to open his heart to the cries of New Yorkers and implement the people’s will. “You will be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.”

“Homelessness among families began to decrease in New York City in 2016 and continued into the pandemic. Key factors behind the positive trend were the CityFHEPS housing vouchers, legal assistance for defendants in housing court, and the success of NYC’s homeless prevention program, Homebase. New York City must fully implement Local Laws 99, 100, 101, and 102 so that these positive trends can once again be realized. We know how to prevent and end homelessness, and full implementation of these laws is an important step toward that end,” said Daniel Farrell, Chief Operating Officer of HELP USA.