New York State Senator Brian Kavanagh, chair of the Senate Housing Committee, and Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, chair of the Assembly Social Services Committee, sponsored legislation (S6573/A8009) recently passed by the legislature that amends the social services law in relation to making vouchers available under the state’s Family Homelessness and Eviction Prevention Supplements program (FHEPS). The program provides rent supplements to families with children who receive cash assistance and have been evicted or are facing eviction, who lost their housing due to domestic violence situation, or who have lost housing because of health and safety concerns. The amended law would make FHEPS vouchers available to eligible families in local social services districts with a population of five million or more (New York City) if the maximum rent for the vouchers is set at 100% of the HUD’s fair market rent (FMR) level. The bill will now head to Governor Hochul’s desk for signature.
New York City, like many cities across the country, has an affordable housing crisis that existed well prior to the pandemic. According to NLIHC’s Gap report, the New York City metro area has a shortage of 607,338 homes affordable and available to households at or below 30% of area median income (AMI). The city is also experiencing a homelessness crisis: 80,000 New Yorkers are sleeping in shelters or on the street on any given night. Though the city received emergency rental assistance, this is only a short-term solution to keep people housed. Senator Kavanagh and Assembly Member Rosenthal are responding to the need to create and implement long-term housing solutions that help the lowest-income people as soon as possible.
The state FHEPS program as it currently stands is inadequate. Most families are unable to use the vouchers to cover rent because many rents in New York City are over the voucher’s 85% FMR cap. In the Jiggetts vs. Grinker case, the state Court of Appeals held that New York City’s public assistance shelter allowance for families with minor children must be close to the actual cost of housing. The current shelter allowance does not match the cost of housing in New York City. The bill is meant to remedy this issue and align with City FHEPS, a similar program serving individuals and families for which the rent levels were also recently raised. S6573 would allow for families to rent apartments at rents up to the full FMR enabling thousands of low-income renters to obtain and maintain stable housing.
The legislation is backed by a broad array of organizations and advocates including the Legal Aid Society, Enterprise Community Partners, the Coalition for the Homeless, the Association for Housing and Neighborhood Development (ANHD), and the Real Estate Board of New York. “We are pleased that the Legislature has approved this measure to align the FHEPS program with Fair Market Rent levels, and make it comparable to City FHEPS,” said Shelly Nortz, deputy executive director for policy with Coalition for the Homeless. “We expect that Governor Hochul will see the financial and humanitarian merits of this approach and sign the bill.”