NYC Paves Way to Send Homeless Population to Upstate Counties That Rejected Migrant Relocation

New York City hopes to ease the pressure on its overcrowded shelter system by paying homeless New Yorkers to move upstate.
NYC Paves Way to Send Homeless Population to Upstate Counties That Rejected Migrant Relocation
A homeless man sleeps on subway train seats in New York in this file photo taken on April 14, 2021. (Richard Drew/AP Photo)
Bill Pan

New York City will soon be subsidizing its homeless and low-income residents to live upstate, a move that follows months-long unsuccessful efforts to resettle illegal immigrants to the counties north of the city.

New York Mayor Eric Adams said on Tuesday that he would  issue an emergency decree that would, for the first time, allow people to use city-funded housing vouchers anywhere in the Empire State.

The vouchers, which are administered as part of the City Fighting Homelessness and Eviction Prevention Supplement, or CityFHEPS, program, have traditionally been able to help families and individuals pay rent only within the five boroughs. Recipients contribute 30 percent of their income toward rent, while the city covers the rest.

As of this June, the CityFHEPS program supports some 30,000 households. It's unclear how many voucher holders would opt to leave the city.

The ability to move out of town with a CityFHEPS voucher, according to the Adams administration, will hopefully ease the pressure on the city's already overcrowded shelter system, a problem severely worsened by the arrival of hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants.

"As a result of a housing crisis and more than 116,000 asylum seekers arriving in New York City asking for shelter since last spring, we have more people than ever in the city's care," the mayor said in a statement.

"These reforms will give longtime New Yorkers the ability to move out of our city's shelter system to other parts of the state with more affordable housing options, while simultaneously opening up space in our city's shelter system for the approximately 10,000 migrants who continue to arrive in the city seeking shelter month after month," he continued.

"We hope our partners across the state will greet these longtime New Yorkers with open arms and good job opportunities."

Mr. Adams is expected to issue the emergency order by early next week, and the changes will go into effect immediately after that.

County Leaders: Reverse This Initiative

The decision faces almost immediate opposition from leaders of the upstate counties. What the City Hall is offering, they said, is not a solution, but a "direct extension of the federal government's failure to address the migrant crisis."

"The solution to this crisis rests squarely at the feet of the federal government where it began," Stephen Acquario, the executive director of New York Association of Counties, said in a statement Tuesday.

"While counties recognize the dire situation the city is facing, we are gravely concerned that the plan announced today will only exacerbate the affordable housing crisis that counties across the state are experiencing," Mr. Acquario noted.

Specifically, the counties worry that this action will add additional strain on a range of county services, from mental health to public health to  education, that are already "stretched to the breaking point" in many communities.

"Shifting a problem from one part of the state to another does not solve anything—it simply creates more problems," Mr. Acquario said, calling on the city to rescind the expanded housing voucher initiative in the meantime.

NYC Abandons Migrants Relocation Lawsuit

Mr. Adams' plan also comes after his administration quietly dropped legal action against upstate counties and towns that issued emergency orders barring illegal migrants from being bused there for housing and other services.

The city in June sued more than 30 localities over those orders, describing them as "misguided and unlawful" edicts "premised on false claims" that illegal immigrants' presence would pose a serious threat to public safety.

"Respondents' EOs burden and obstruct New York City's lawful and reasonable efforts to address the ongoing statewide humanitarian crisis in a manner that is explicitly permitted by law and required by this statewide emergency," a 37-page complaint filed in New York Supreme Court read.

The legal challenges were largely discontinued last week after a judge ruled that the city would have to bring each case to the court in the corresponding counties instead of having all of them be heard in one Manhattan court, making it logistical untenable for the city's attorneys.

There are still four counties left in the city's lawsuit, namely Dutchess, Orange, Onondaga and Rockland Counties. They have also sued New York City over attempts to ship illegal immigrants to their doorsteps.

The Adams administration had spent months trying to get upstate and suburban counties to take in some of the swelling population of illegal immigrants in the city's care. In the spring, Mr. Adams used his emergency authority to enter a no-bid $432 million contract with DocGo, a mobile health company that previously worked with the city to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, to bus the newcomers out of the city and order hotel and motel rooms for them in other counties.

"It would limit hotel space during our busiest tourist season, thereby threatening the existing local jobs, the economy that our community depends on," Yvette Aguiar, supervisor of Riverhead, Suffolk County, said last week at a press conference about the discontinuance of New York City's legal action against her town.

"Nobody should try to circumvent our own zoning," Ms. Aguiar said. "We understand our town. We understand the intricacies. We understand the people. And I don't think somebody in New York City should govern our town laws."