The Daily Dirt: Council ups fight over housing vouchers

Lawmakers seek to intervene in Legal Aid’s suit

<p>From left: Adrienne Adams and Eric Adams (Photo Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal with Getty)</p>

From left: Adrienne Adams and Eric Adams (Photo Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal with Getty)

The City Council is charging ahead in its fight over housing vouchers.

On Valentine’s Day, the Legal Aid Society filed a lawsuit to force Mayor Eric Adams to implement expansions to the city’s rental voucher program. On Wednesday, exactly one week later, the City Council filed a motion to jump in on Legal Aid’s side.

This was expected: The City Council on Feb. 8 authorized Speaker Adrienne Adams to sue the administration over its failure to enforce four laws enacted last year.

The mayor vetoed the bills, but the Council overrode that decision.

The mayor has cited the cost of expanding eligibility and said the new law would increase the competition for housing, hurting existing voucher holders. The administration estimates that the four measures would cost the city $17 billion in the first five years. The Council pegs the cost at $11 billion.

Real estate groups have been generally supportive of the bills, but have pointed out that putting housing vouchers in more apartment seekers’ hands is only effective if there is enough housing to accommodate them. Which, of course, there is not.

Here’s what each of the four measures do: 

  • Increases income eligibility (from a maximum of 200 percent of the federal poverty level to 50 percent of the area median income). It also repeals a rule that requires individuals and families to spend at least 90 days in homeless shelters before they can apply for the City Fighting Homelessness and Eviction Prevention Supplement, or CityFHEPS. The mayor subsequently issued an executive order that did the same thing but added work rules.
  • Expands voucher eligibility to people at risk of homelessness or eviction.
  • Bars the city from basing eligibility on employment status.
  • Allows voucher holders to rent apartments based on the full value of the voucher, without having to deduct the cost of utilities.

The mounting tension between the mayor and Council raises questions about the future of the mayor’s policy priorities, including the City of Yes for Housing Opportunity text amendment. The mayor and Council Speaker Adrienne Adams have been supportive of each other’s housing development agendas, but will the speaker go to bat for some of the more controversial elements of the text amendment, given their fraying relationship?

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A thing we’ve learned: Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 film “The Birds” is based on the Daphne du Maurier short story by the same name, published in 1952. However, in 1936, Frank Baker published a novel, also called “The Birds,” featuring thousands of birds that descend on London and cause havoc. Baker threatened to sue Hitchcock at the time. Du Maurier did not know about Baker’s book, but was apparently a cousin of Baker’s publisher, according to the book “Celtic Weird: Tales of Wicked Folklore and Dark Mythology.”

Elsewhere in New York…

— Mayor Eric Adams on Wednesday canceled a third round of budget cuts, Politico New York reports. City agencies were expected to outline expenditure cuts of 5 percent in their April budget plans.

— The NYPD plans to use drones at city beaches this summer to drop floatation devices to struggling swimmers, the City reports. The move comes as the city continues to deal with a shortage of lifeguards. The administration increased starting salaries to $22 per hour.

— Correction officers used pepper spray to subdue detainees 2,972 times during the first 10 months of 2023, a 50 percent increase from the same period in 2018, Gothamist reports. A report by the city Department of Correction concluded that pepper spray was used on an individual “who was engaged in self-harm with a ligature around their neck” on eight occasions in October. The report also found that in many cases “the use of chemical agent was unnecessary and that other steps should have been taken to de-escalate the situation.”

Closing Time

Residential: The priciest residential closing on Wednesday was $3.725 million for a condominium unit at 15 East 30th Street.

Commercial: The most expensive commercial closing of the day was $18.135 million for a hotel at 42-24 Crescent Street in Hunters Point, Queens.

New to the Market: The priciest home to hit the market on Wednesday was a penthouse at 277 Fifth Avenue in NoMad for $15 million. Douglas Elliman has the listing. — Matthew Elo