NYC Council Committee on General Welfare Oversight re. CityFHEPS Rental Assistance Program

Testimony & Public Comments

January 18, 2023

On behalf of the Family Homelessness Coalition, we would like to thank Chair Ayala for the opportunity to testify on the CityFHEPS rental assistance program and much needed changes to the program.

The Family Homelessness Coalition (FHC) is comprised of New Yorkers who have experienced homelessness and 20 organizations, representing service providers, supportive and affordable housing providers, and children’s advocacy organizations, united by the goal of ending family homelessness. We are collectively focused on advancing budget, legislative, and programmatic proposals that prevent family homelessness, improve the well-being of children and families in shelters, and support the long-term housing and social-economic stability of families with children who leave shelter.

We are deeply concerned about proposed staff reductions, given that families throughout the city are already unable to access safety net and housing assistance in a timely manner due to understaffing at HRA. We urge the City Council to not only oppose staffing reductions, but to advocate that the city provide the resources and support necessary to fill existing vacancies quickly.

We are supportive of the intent of all the bills to broaden the eligibility requirements of CityFHEPS. FHC believes strongly in upstream prevention, meaning we need to foster greater housing stability before people fall through the cracks and arrive at a crisis point, such as entering shelter. We must make a valuable resource like CityFHEPS available to households who need it without forcing them to become destitute first.

Intro 878 would make the important change of not requiring an applicant to have lived in shelter as a precondition to receive a rental assistance voucher. We would like to express our gratitude to Council Member Ayala for introducing this legislation, which responds to FHC’s calls to eliminate the 90-day shelter stay requirement, and goes a step further to expand eligibility requirements. Families experiencing eviction in the community face the difficult decision to enter DHS shelters, this disrupts children education attendance and affects their performance. If enacted, the administration will reduce shelter census, lengths of stay, and costs, while improving child and family wellbeing.

Intro 894 would remove the current requirement that an individual or family demonstrate they are employed to become eligible for a CityFHEPS rental assistance voucher, another necessary change. Work requirements are burdensome and there are myriad reasons why someone who is seeking a CityFHEPS voucher may not be employed. If one is experiencing housing instability, it is likely extremely difficult to maintain consistent employment. If one is caring for children, or elderly or sick family members, it may also be difficult to work full time. We request though that this bill clarify that people making up to 50% area median income shall be eligible for rental assistance.

At the onset of the Covid pandemic, New York City made the important change of eliminating the housing court requirement to qualify for CityFHEPS and allowing people to be eligible by showing verified rent demand. This was a temporary change that should be made permanently, and Intro 893 does that. We should not force low-income New Yorkers to go through the traumatizing and costly eviction process before they are able to access rental assistance, and instead, we should prevent eviction further upstream in the process.

FHC also supports expanding CityFHEPS eligibility for undocumented families. Recent housing data analysis from Citizens’ Committee for Children unveiled the higher rates of overcrowding, rent burden, and housing instability facing immigrant led households compared to the overall New York City population.

Thank you for your time and we look forward to our continue partnership to ensure that all families with young children have a stable and affordable home.

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