The City Council passed legislation in May to raise the CityFHEPS rate to Section 8 levels, but the measure would not take effect for at least six months unless de Blasio and the Department of Social Services (DSS) agreed to take action sooner. 

Adi Talwar

Council Speaker Corey Johnson, former Speaker Christine Quinn and housing advocates at a press conference this spring announcing their plans to vote on the long-awaited housing vouchers bill.

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday agreed to raise the value of city rental vouchers by Sept. 1, following months of pressure by homeless New Yorkers to implement the increase, which they say will unlock tens of thousands of apartments for low-income families across the five boroughs.

New Yorkers experiencing homelessness and their advocates have for years urged the city to boost the value of the existing subsidies—known as CityFHEPS—to market rates, saying thousands of voucher-holders are unable to find homes priced at the current levels. The City Council passed legislation in May to raise the CityFHEPS rate to Section 8 levels, but the measure would not take effect for at least six months unless de Blasio and the Department of Social Services (DSS) agreed to take action sooner. 

Families and individuals experiencing homelessness pressed de Blasio to implement the increase immediately, with their advocacy culminating in a series of demonstrations to mark July as “Homeless Rights Month.” Advocates camped overnight outside Gracie Mansion, staged multiple rallies at City Hall and secured a meeting with top administration officials to discuss the need for the immediate value increase.

On the final weekday in July, de Blasio announced that he and DSS would fast-track the increase through a Human Resources Administration rule change following a public comment period and hearing Aug. 30. The increase will apply to September rentals, he said.

“New York City’s recovery depends on giving every family the tools they need to thrive in their communities,” de Blasio said. “Increasing rental vouchers will help thousands of New Yorkers find stable housing or avoid the shelter system altogether. It’s a transformative change.”

CityFHEPS subsidies are currently worth $1,265 a month for a single adult and $1,580 for a family of three or four—too low to afford an average two-bedroom in any neighborhood in New York City, according to analysis by the real estate website RentHop. Voucher-holders pay a “household share”—a portion of their income, up to 30 percent—and the subsidy covers the remainder of the monthly rent.

In contrast, Section 8 covers one-bedroom apartments priced at $1,945 per month and two-bedroom apartments priced at $2,217 in New York City. To qualify, families and individuals must earn no more than 200 percent of the federal poverty level—equal to $25,760 for an individual or $43,920 for a family of three.

The city says more than 11,000 New Yorkers managed to secure apartments last year using city rental assistance, including CityFHEPS vouchers, but homeless New Yorkers and nonprofit providers say thousands of others are unable to find a unit priced low enough to afford with the current vouchers.

Shams DaBaron, an advocate who experienced homelessness and goes by the nickname Da Homeless Hero, hailed the decision to implement the increase after organizing dozens of Homeless Rights Month demonstrations.

“What we wanted was a seat at the table, a voice in the discussion and a hand in the decision making,” DaBaron said. “Today, we celebrate a huge victory.”

There were 45,173 people staying in Department of Homeless Services (DHS) shelters as of July 30, according to the city’s most recent daily census. That includes 8,299 families with 14,482 children—a disturbingly high number, but still lower than the average for any month since September 2011, city data shows.

Statewide eviction protections have limited the number of families entering DHS shelters during the COVID-19 pandemic, and robust efforts to get people into permanent housing have driven down the shelter population. In June, the city completed the purchase of 14 so-called cluster sites —apartment buildings rented by the city as temporary shelter—and is working with nonprofit developers to convert the units into permanent housing for more than 1,500 homeless New Yorkers.

At the same time, the number of single adults experiencing homelessness has increased during the pandemic, reaching 16,308 on July 30. The population is now lower than 18,501 on an average night in January, but nearly double the 8,177 who stayed in DHS shelters on an average night in July 2011.


Read More: New York’s $2.7 Billion Rent Relief Program Cuts First Checks, Amid Scrutiny


The voucher increase will enable more families and single adults to secure permanent homes, said Department of Homeless Services Administrator Joslyn Carter.

“This Administration’s latest action to raise the value of City rental assistance programs will build on our comprehensive efforts to do everything we can to support New Yorkers experiencing homelessness,” Carter said in a statement.

The city budget passed last month allocates $34 million to fund the voucher increase—about half of what lawmakers and policy analysts anticipate the measure will cost, and consistent with the initial plan for the increase to take effect mid-way through the year. The city could tap key funding from the federal government to cover additional expenses.

Though advocates have praised the voucher increase as a major victory in the fight against homelessness, they have criticized recertification criteria inserted into the legislation at the last minute and without their knowledge.

The bill passed in May, Intro. 146, links renewal eligibility to a specific income threshold that could strip households of the vouchers after five years if they earn more than 250 percent of the federal poverty level—equal to $32,200 for a single adult and just under $55,000 for a family of three.

Critics say that criteria will force participants, especially single adults, to choose between a living wage and their housing voucher after the fifth year of eligibility.

“That’s the type of policy that lands people back in the shelter system,” said Sarah Wilson, an organizer with Neighbors Together and the Safety Net Project of the Urban Justice Center, in May. Wilson said she experienced homelessness and struggled to find a landlord willing to take her CityFHEPS subsidy.

Voucher recipients also point out another issue when it comes to finding an apartment: source of income discrimination. Though they are guaranteed a consistent monthly rent and a $4,300 bonus, landlords and brokers often outright deny or passively “ghost” prospective tenants when they learn the renter has a CityFHEPS voucher. That discrimination is illegal under city law but remains pervasive, according to New Yorkers trying to leave shelters with their vouchers.

Homeless New Yorkers, their advocates and local lawmakers have called on the city and state to step up enforcement against discriminatory property owners and agents.

They have also turned their attention to recently-passed legislation that would raise the level of state FHEPS vouchers to Section 8 levels. State lawmakers passed the voucher increase bill late last session, surprising many advocates. De Blasio and DSS Commissioner Steve Banks had called on the state to increase the voucher value at the same time the city boosted its own subsidy.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not yet signed the bill, however.

Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz, chair of the Housing Committee, said the state-level increase would “bring even greater stability to housing insecure New Yorkers.”

17 thoughts on “De Blasio Agrees to Fast-Track Rental Voucher Increase for Homeless New Yorkers

  1. I was in a family shelter and finally found a landlord who would take my voucher for a 1 bd room with a small office space which I use for my daughter’s sleeping space. In my bedroom I share the dresser & closet space with my daughter however the place is extremely small and is a very old brownstone needing a lot of work that was not noticed until living here for almost a year although it was inspected by the city prior to moving in (basic inspection) I believe the city just wanted to count me as a client they helped. . I did my research the building is over 100 years old.. I need to move into a real 2 bedroom apartment but can’t afford to move because rent is to high to get a 2bedroom apartment my voucher is $1323 I can’t even get a 1 bdrm for that amount. just received my recertification approval at the same dollar value of 1323. Although recertification approval to go in affect in October 2021 was prior to Bill being law Will the amount of my voucher also increase once the bill is signed into law

    • I would love to know the answer as well because I also have a $1323 voucher that is absurd, I’ve been looking for months now with a new shop letter trying to get out of the building I live in now which constantly leaks multiple times a year and I can’t even find a decent apartment for that price for two adults. I would love if my voucher is going to go up as well.

    • U guys need to think about moving. I lived in NYC all my life and moved to Syracuse NY in 2012. My life has changed drastically. I have section 8 here and my amount goes by fair market value. For your amount $ 1500 u can get a 2 bedroom, 2 bath Townhouse. 3 floors with a basement, dishwasher and washer and dryer. And ALL the complexes are beautiful, most have swimming pools and tennis courts. I love NYC but it’s for rich people. With a decent job here and having section8 I don’t struggle. The cost of living is really cheap and life is just better. Why struggle all your life just to survive. Go online and look up Morgan Properties Syracuse NY and see what I’m talking about. Its not easy to relocate but totally worth it!!!

  2. I am glad that this is happening, where many people can have the chance to find homes!
    I have two children, and currently pregnant In a one bedroom apartment. I moved in 2016, so I had been in that apartment for almost 5 years. I want the opportunity to have an increase to get a 2 bedroom, so the kids wont be able to sleep in the living room, which is considered cruel to me. At first when trying to get a modification of adding my second child, I was denied by the caseworker for 3 people in a 1 br. Then I did an appeal and it was overturned august, 23, 2021 and granted me 1580$. So during my process of apartment searching, the amount is too low for landlords or brokers to accept for a 2 bedroom. August 25th is when I found out that the policies for human resources for homelessness documented on the website that a family of 3 is 2217$ on august 20th 2021. 3 days after the appeal was granted to me with only 1580$. Now i wondering if the increase is only for those coming out the shelter, or does this increase applies to people in my situation too? This is so devastating! I am about to have 4 people in a one bedroom apartment. is this even legal for the occupancy level in a 1 br? and am i eligable for the 2217$ increase, and when does this take effect?

  3. I lost my apartment in July of 2012. I have been living at the Bellevue Central Men’s Shelter for most of the last 9 years. Even though the city and state have agreed to increase the value of the vouchers, it will not matter to landlords who refuse to accept them. Historically, landlords would out price the rental amount of Section 8 vouchers. And, as stated above, landlords would outright refuse to accept Citypheps vouchers, or ghost applicants who presented the vouchers at the time they inquired about available apartments. THERE MUST BE AN ENFORCEMENT MECHANISM where people who’s vouchers are refused can go and file a complaint that will be swiftly investigated and addressed where landlords will receive significant fines for income discrimination which will in turn end this practice.
    Marc Bailey

  4. I was in a shelter for 1 yr they put me in a basement apartment (which was illegal) every Friné it would rain it would flood, mold etc falling apart. They found me another apartment where my neighbor harasses me, he throws feces at my door and leaves dead roaster at my soothe is literally crazy. I need to move to a decent apartment where me and my daughter can go up and down the apartment without being scared. The management office won’t do anything they have been trying to evict him for 2 years unsuccessfully. My voucher is for 1580.00 I can’t even get a decent apartment with that. Please Mr Mayor raise those vouchers ASAP.

  5. Still waiting on state FHEPS to increase we out here settling fir small crowded spaces due to the voucher amounts for state FHEPS smh i was searching fir almost 3 years for an apartment and nothing till this July n its small and my size is 5 people im going to have to rent a storage smh all because i had to settle for whatever because my current apartment at the time was being foreclosed so i had to transfer smh now im stuck in this new small apartment for a year smh unreal nasty building roach infested as well all because my voucher wasn’t enough to cover the rent of 3-4 bedrooms

  6. Update, so cityfheps got approved, but fheps is still waiting to be signed?!
    Okay, I thought cityfheps and fheps were the same thing, but it’s not. I have fheps and there is nothing that accepts 1580$ anymore! 2 br apartments is 1800$ and more. 1580$ Is good for a 1 br. I am about to have 4 people in a one bedroom, and fheps is still waiting to be signed ? Just sign it, please, homelessness and bad situations are not safe or healthy for anybody dealing with poverty. Some of us work and still can’t afford anything. Please just sign it, so people can have a happy home to live in. So our kids can have a place to develop happily. We’re not rich, but we just want to live comfortably. When people start to live happy, great things can evolve! I go to school for my bachelors, for business administration and Human Resources, and still I’m making little to nothing. I have a FHEPS voucher, and an increase will help me, my kids and many others like me! We voted for you, we believe you can help us all. If you increase cityfheps, please push for an increase in FHEPS!

  7. City feheps are bull shitting us on our Voucher. All section 8 Vouchers and any other Voucher needs to be $1900 so homeless people and those who are not can find them a place to live.

    New York city is bullshit.

    Give us a $1900 housing Voucher so we can find a place to live.

    Mayor

    • umm… if you had read the bill the increases for individuals are $1,945 and for families $2,217 which is on median with Section 8 levels

  8. U guys need to think about moving. I lived in NYC all my life and moved to Syracuse NY in 2012. My life has changed drastically. I have section 8 here and my amount goes by fair market value. For your amount $ 1500 u can get a 2 bedroom, 2 bath Townhouse. 3 floors with a basement, dishwasher and washer and dryer. And ALL the complexes are beautiful, most have swimming pools and tennis courts. I love NYC but it’s for rich people. With a decent job here and having section8 I don’t struggle. The cost of living is really cheap and life is just better. Why struggle all your life just to survive. Go online and look up Morgan Properties Syracuse NY and see what I’m talking about. Its not easy to relocate but totally worth it!!!

  9. My name is Shawna. I have a 16 year old son who is disabled and in a wheelchair and I have a FHEPS Voucher not CityFHEPS voucher and my voucher is $1323. And so I have been trying to look for a 2 bedroom with enough space for my sons powerchair and other equipments but no real estate is accepting me to be in a studio apartment. Or I get excuses such as we take the voucher but not that amount, oh we take the voucher but no apartments available. Supposedly to the knowledge of Catholic charities there was only on increased for CityFHEPS but what about FHEPS? If there was an increase for CityFHEPS there should be an increase on FHEPS. I have been with FHEPS voucher since 2019 and still have not found an apartment that needs to be suitable for my son. I have been moving from peoples homes back and forth with a disable child in a wheelchair and my son can not even use his own powerchair as his transportation because all we keep doing is moving from home to home. I really need an apartment. At the moment I am staying in a basement with only stairs available to leave the home which is really dangerous for my son because in case of an emergency he won’t be able to get out and this is a safety hazard concern. I do need to move as soon as possible. I have been trying to get help from social workers to ACS workers to Catholic charities and they can not help. This is really frustrating and stressful. It is crazy how those who actually don’t need no help the state or the city helps them faster than those like me in my situation. Please help! Thank you

  10. I was in shelter and had a hard time for landlord to take the voucher. The housing specialist found me a apartment in a family house and i took itbecause I didn’t want to stay in the shelter any more. 4 years is was very long. But now this landlord dont fix nothing.he dont do nothing for none of the tenants.we complaint to hpd and hpd gets on them and he still dont do nothing .On top of this they are hoarders from outside to inside the apt.
    They are just plain pigs nasty. Now I ask for transfer and they dont want to approve. So beware that if they tell you take the apt and you can get a transfer later dont go for it cause its not easy.

  11. I have 3 children and I’m 4 months pregnant which is considered to be a household of 5. CityFheps gave me a voucher for a 2 bedroom apartment and said I can’t add my unborn until I’m 8 months pregnant for a 3 bedroom which is in February. I cannot find an apartment in my area near my childrens schools that’s a 3 bedroom apartment for the amount of $2217(case worker said I shouldn’t have a problem finding an3 bedroom for that amount which is a lie because all 3 bedrooms are $2400 plus a month here in Harlem). I said how do you expect me to move into an apartment while I am on bedrest for preterm labor at 8 months pregnant with 3 children and all apartments in this vicinity are a walk up at that. Has anyone heard that you can’t get the increase until you’re 8 months pregnant instead of counting the pregnancy now? I can’t find any information online for this at all .

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