The city on Tuesday night finally responded to a lawsuit over its rental assistance voucher program, known as CityFHEPS.

Mayor Eric Adams and the City Council have been at odds over changes to the program that the council made in the last year.

In their filing on Tuesday, the Adams administration claims that the City Council doesn’t have the authority to make changes to the program and, as a result, the case should be dismissed.

What You Need To Know

  • The city in a late night filing Tuesday responded to a legal challenge over the city's housing voucher program

  • CityFHEPS is a program aimed at helping homeless New Yorkers that was expanded by the City Council recently to include those facing eviction

  • The Adams administration has refused to implement the changes, triggering a lawsuit from the Legal Aid Society

  • The Adams administration contends in their filing that the council doesn't have the authority to make changes to the voucher program, that it's the state. They are asking the case be dismissed

“The new laws state that they are to be implemented by DSS via the rule-making process (Local Law 100, § 4, reprinted at NYSCEF Doc. No. 5). City DSS has declined to undertake rule-making to implement the four new laws because City DSS, and not the City Council, is empowered to set eligibility criteria for social services housing supplements like CityFHEPS,” the court filing read.

Lawyers, on the other side, disagree.

“We think that the council has a role to act in disregard, a role that derives from the charter and we think that they duly pass laws expanding and improving CityFHEPS,” Robert Desir, staff attorney in the Civil Law Reform Unit at the Legal Aid Society, said on Wednesday.

The Legal Aid Society sued the city in February on behalf of four New Yorkers and others alleging they would be eligible for the vouchers if not for the city’s refusal to carry out the changes.

“Three of our plaintiffs are currently facing eviction in housing court where they owe significant arrears,” said Desir. “If they are eligible for CityFHEPS, and are approved for CityFHEPS then that opens a lifeline to them.”

This lawsuit is just one of the many points of tension between the two sides of City Hall.

Adams and councilmembers have been unable to agree on a handful of bills lately that has led to some veto overrides including over CityFHEPS.

The City Council contends that under the city charter, its jobs is to create laws while the mayor is meant to implement them.

Both sides agree on at least one thing — the city needs more housing.

“We have a vacancy rate of 1.4% and even lower when it comes down to affordable housing,” Adams said on Monday at an unrelated event.

In January, changes to CityFHEPS, including expanding the program to those facing eviction and increasing the income eligibility minimum, were supposed to take effect.

“There are many who have rents that would be considered affordable but because of their income they are unable to afford those rents. We don’t want those people to be evicted. We don’t want those people to lose those affordable rents,” Desir said.

Adams has previously argued the expansion was too costly and increased competition for limited housing stock. Those two issues were brought up in the filing but weren’t the basis of argument.

A spokesperson for the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the state agency that oversees the voucher program, declined to comment citing the pending litigation.

However, they did note the agency reviews and approves rent supplement plans.

The Legal Aid Society has until April 19 to respond to the city’s opposition letter.