September 13, 2022
CONTACT: Mariah McGough, email@example.com, 203 470 9979
FIX CITYFHEPS NOW: ADVOCATES CALL ON MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL TO REFORM VOUCHER PROGRAM TO MAKE IT ACCESSIBLE TO ALL NEW YORKERS
Key Reforms are Needed for the Program to be Effective, Including Expanding Access to Recent Asylum Seekers Sent From Other States
NEW YORK — Today, VOCAL-NY, Legal Aid Society, Community Service Society, and allies called on the Mayor Adams and the City Council on the steps of City Hall to reform the CityFHEPs Voucher Program, which is the largest locally funded rental assistance program in the five boroughs. Some of the reforms being demanded include:
- Streamline the application process, and expand eligibility by: waiving work requirements for those on public assistance; expanding voucher eligibility to more families that are currently housed and facing eviction, and to households without immigration status; and eliminating the requirement that households live in shelter or receive services for three months prior to receiving a voucher.
- Eliminate HRA’s rule that deducts the utility allowance from the payment standard.
- Eliminate the rent reasonableness standard.
- Reform bureaucratic processes at HRA to eliminate delays and ensure that all apartments are approved for CityFHEPS families in less than one month.
- Rebuild the City’s source-of-income discrimination unit, hire additional staff, and create a speedy intervention program to ensure households facing discrimination can secure apartments.
- Improve oversight and inspections of CityFHEPS apartments
“I wasn’t homeless until the city made me homeless by restricting where I could live because I was on parole. Then they gave me a voucher that didn’t work. We need the Mayor to step up and priovide real solutions for the homeless,” said Douglas Powell, a leader with VOCAL-NY’s Homelessness Union.
“I see myself in the hundreds of undocumented people being bussed in from other states. I have been in the shelter system for over 3 years, because the city won’t give me housing because I am undocumented. Its wrong and inhumane to keep me in temporary dangerous shelters that damage my health- its time we open cityFHEPs for the undocumented!” said Kassi Keith, a leader with VOCAL-NY’s Homelessness Union.
““The solution to homelessness is housing. We need a system that quickly gets people out of the shelters and streets and into safe, affordable and permanent housing. While we’ve made some important improvements to our CityFHEPS voucher system in the past couple years, a lot more needs to be done to clear administrative hurdles and fight landlord discrimination. Now is the time to fix this program and take seriously the task of ending homelessness in our city,” said Emerita Torres, Vice President for Policy, Research and Advocacy at the Community Service Society of New York.
“We are all human beings and deserve housing; it doesn’t matter what our nationality is or where we come from. Everyone in shelters should have access to CityFHEPS vouchers,” said Felix Nicot, shelter resident and member of the Safety Net Activists. “Additionally, once people have CityFHEPS vouchers, they shouldn’t be stopped from moving into apartments because of red tape.”
“Difficulty exiting shelter and getting into permanent housing is one of the top issues we hear about from our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness. Many of our neighbors have CityFHEPS vouchers but have been in shelter for years because securing permanent housing is so challenging. Others are limited by the program’s narrow eligibility. In this moment when the number of people entering shelters is rapidly increasing, the city must do everything it can to get folks housed—starting with fixing and expanding CityFHEPS. We’re proud to stand with homeless neighbors today to call for this crucial set of reforms,” said Sara Newman, Director of Organizing at the Open Hearts Initiative.
“Long before Governor Abbott of Texas decided to mislead asylum seekers and use them as a political ploy by busing asylum seekers unannounced to New York City, our city’s shelter system was at capacity and in need of permanent solutions to correct the course. Expanding access for the CityFHEPs program to undocumented New Yorkers not only is one of many things our government can do to respond to this crucial moment to meet the needs of asylum seekers but also moves us closer to solving the NYC’s longstanding housing woes,” said Taina Wagnac, Senior Manager of State & Local Policy at the New York Immigration Coalition.
Robert Desir, staff attorney in the Civil Law Reform Unit at The Legal Aid Society, said: “CityFHEPS has the potential to drastically reduce the City’s homeless population and keep New Yorkers safely housed, yet it is plagued with administrative obstacles that cause families to lose apartments that they are eligible for. The City Council must prioritize these common-sense reforms and pass intro 229 to maximize the program’s potential to help New Yorkers escape the shelter system, live in homes with dignity, and save the City money.”
“Last night, nearly 11,000 families, including over 18,000 children, slept in shelters across the city. CityFHEPS vouchers are one of the best tools we have to help these families move out of shelter, but right now, the City’s illogical rules are undermining their effectiveness,” said Christine C. Quinn, President & CEO at Win. “At a time when shelters are hitting capacity, we urge the City to make CityFHEPS vouchers as effective as possible by eliminating the utility deduction and fixing the 90 Day Rule, which will give homeless families the best shot at moving into permanent homes.”
“New York City is in the midst of an unprecedented housing and homelessness crisis. It is critical that Mayor Adams’ administration fix the CityFHEPS voucher so that people are not stuck in homelessness unnecessarily. New York City must establish that housing is a human right for all, and end short sighted, harmful policies such as the CityFHEPS utilities deduction and the 90-day eligibility rule. We know it is possible to move people out of homelessness and into permanent homes, but the city must be willing to take action,” said Amy Blumsack, Director of Organizing & Policy at Neighbors Together.
In recent weeks, asylum seekers have entered New York City’s broken shelter system, with little promise of permanent, safe housing. New York City’s shelter system has already failed to transition people into permanent housing – a consequence of several issues with the CityFHEPs Voucher Program.
By reforming the CityFHEPs program and expanding its availability to all New Yorkers, the City can transition people out of our overburdened shelter system and into long-term, permanent housing.