Cost dispute, legal fight looms over expansion of CityFHEPS housing voucher program

CityFHEPS launched in 2019, and it’s the largest city rental program that provides vouchers and housing for low-income families and individuals in New York City. Recently, it got a reboot.

Ashley Mastronardi

Jan 12, 2024, 11:26 PM

Updated 156 days ago

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CityFHEPS launched in 2019, and it’s the largest city rental program that provides vouchers and housing for low-income families and individuals in New York City. Recently, it got a reboot. Claire Salant is a policy analyst from the Independent Budget Office.
“Last summer, City Council passed legislation to expand the program ... the City Council expanded the income limit so it lifted it significantly,” Salant told News 12 New York.
The new legislation also says the vouchers could now apply to people who didn’t previously live in a shelter, among other changes.  Mayor Eric Adams projected this would cost the city $17 billion, but Salant authored a report that says that number may be inflated.  She says it’s complicated.
"There were three different estimates that were produced. The mayor’s office came up with their own estimate, City Council came up with an estimate and the Office of the New York State Comptroller came up with an estimate,” she said. “The lowest one was $3 billion and the highest one was $36 billion, so there’s just a lot of uncertainty about how much the program will cost and that has to do with how much an individual voucher costs because it depends on household income, and a lot of it has to do with available apartments,” she added.
The City Council estimate came in at $10.6 billion over five years.  A cost estimate by Win – a shelter and supportive housing nonprofit – said the city could save $730 million annually. Former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is the president and CEO.
“The best and the most cost-effective ... things for homeless families we can do is make housing vouchers accessible and make them as easy to possible to use. You do that, people get out of shelters and the city saves money,” Quinn told News 12 New York.  “[I don’t know] why they wouldn’t be heralding the potential of this program, not putting out reports that overblow the cost of taking care of our homeless New Yorkers."
Quinn is not the only critic.  City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams has threatened to take the Adams administration to court if they don’t take steps toward implementing the new laws by early February. The mayor’s office says the city has a $7 billion budget gap. They told us in a statement: “This legislation and its $17 billion price tag will make it harder for New Yorkers in shelter to move into permanent housing at a time when there are 10,000 households in shelter that are eligible for CityFHEPS and force more painful budget cuts onto working-class New Yorkers.”
The IBO says this is a complicated issue and what’s next is unclear. But they say Adams has already implemented one part of legislation that allows people to qualify for a voucher as soon as they enter a shelter instead of waiting 90 days.


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