After years of debate and months of negotiations, the City Council is poised to vote on legislation this week to drastically increase the value of the city’s rental assistance vouchers for New Yorkers experiencing homelessness.
Sources tell NY1 the council is expected to overwhelmingly approve the bill, which could cost the city millions more down the road. Sources at City Hall say the mayor will not veto it.
For years, the de Blasio administration has opposed the legislation, arguing it would inflate the cost of the current program by hundreds of millions of dollars. Recently, after the city received billions of dollars in federal stimulus funding, the mayor had been more open to some sort of compromise.
Under the legislation, these vouchers, known as CityFHEPS, will be increased up to Section 8 levels (Section 8 is a federally funded housing voucher program). For instance, a city voucher currently worth $1,323 for a one-bedroom apartment will now be worth $1,945. Right now, a family of four can get a voucher worth $1,580. Under the proposed legislation, that will go up to $2,217.
Supporters of the legislation argue the increase will give families in shelter a fighting chance to actually be competitive in the New York real estate market.
The primary sponsor of the bill, Councilman Stephen Levin of Brooklyn, told NY1 he was confident the council had enough votes to pass the legislation.
"I think this is an important bill," Levin told NY1 on Monday. “This will help get thousands of shelter residents who have been there for too long the ability to get into private housing out in the private market.”
Earlier this year, NY1 investigated the city’s voucher program and found only a tiny slice of families with the voucher were able to find housing every month. They were routinely discriminated against, and landlords often rejected the vouchers. Many said the income was unreliable or below market rate. That kind of discrimination, referred to as source of income discrimination, is illegal.
Even so, the mayor has resisted fully backing the bill, although his stance looks like it has shifted.
Some officials fear increasing the city’s voucher without increasing a state-funded parallel program will devalue the state voucher, making it obsolete. Those officials argue the city and the state need to act simultaneously.
On Inside City Hall on Monday night, Mayor de Blasio echoed the same concern. But he said he was optimistic that the city and the state can act together. He said increasing the cost of the voucher was “sensible."
"We want to make sure we maximize the ability to help homeless folks but not inadvertently shift the cost from the state to the city,” de Blasio said. "I think we can get this all pulled together ... and in the process, help homeless folks."
This has been a hot topic on the campaign trail all year. All of the Democratic candidates for mayor have said if elected, they would increase the value of the city’s voucher.