The New York City Council on Thursday voted to authorize Speaker Adrienne Adams to pursue legal action against the Adams administration over its failure to implement an expansion of a housing voucher program.

Just three members voted against the resolution, which Speaker Adams said “maintains our ability to keep our options open.”

“It’s to authorize our ability to take some type of legal action to ensure that our laws can help New Yorkers facing the twin crises of rising eviction and homelessness, and that the laws are actually implemented,” she said before the vote.

She did not say if or when they would move forward with legal action, but it’s another strike in an increasingly emboldened City Council as it deals with Mayor Eric Adams.

The Council first passed a package of bills last May aimed at moving people out of shelters and into permanent housing, including one that changed some of the qualifications to receive a voucher, including from the Family Homelessness and Eviction Prevention Supplement (FHEPS). Mayor Adams vetoed the bills, leading the Council to override his veto in July.

But last December, Department of Social Services Commissioner Molly Wasow Park sent a letter to the Council saying they could not be implemented due to “substantial financial, operational and legal issues.”

Speaker Adams said Thursday that the Council has not received any further communication from the administration on its inability to follow the law, forcing the Council to consider taking legal action.

CityFHEPS is administered by the city’s Department of Social Services, and New Yorkers qualify after meeting certain criteria — mainly a household with a gross income at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, and facing eviction.

An estimated 36,000 households use the program annually. Cost estimates for the changes vary, from between $3 billion to $36 billion over the next five years, according to the Independent Budget Office.

Mayor Takes Initiative

The vote to potentially sue came hours after the mayor announced the Affordable Housing Services initiative, which will help nonprofits buy housing sites or enter long-term leases for housing.

The initiative would create 1,500 permanent affordable homes for people with CityFHEPS vouchers, with the Department of Social Services expediting 1,000 of those units, according to the press release.

“Time and time again, our administration has taken action to help New Yorkers in our shelter system move into permanent affordable homes, and our strategies have proven effective,” the mayor said in a statement. An Adams spokesperson said the timing of the announcement, on the same day as the Council’s vote to potentially sue, was coincidental.

The Adams administration has made building more housing one of its biggest priorities, looking to build a little more housing all across the city. They’ve also allowed voucher holders to use them across the state.

Speaker Adams said she welcomed the creation of more housing for New Yorkers using rental-assistance vouchers, but it didn’t change the fact that the city was ignoring the law.

“Anything that will come subsequent to that law is fine, and it would be welcome, but it does not supersede the law that is in place,” she said.

$3.6 Billion Short

The Adams administration has continued to push back against the Council’s voucher expansion, citing the excessive cost and the city’s budget issues. And despite a more positive preliminary budget announcement last month, the Citizens Budget Commission released an analysis of the mayor’s preliminary budget this week saying the city’s still short on funds.

The “Don’t Step Off the Cliff” report found that the next fiscal year’s spending proposal is short $3.6 billion of what’s needed to keep funding its current programs and expenses.

This includes $704 million for the CityFHEPs program, $200 million for homeless shelters, and $655 million to pay for expected overtime within the uniformed agencies like police and fire departments.

A spokesperson for the mayor focused on the administration’s work to close a more than $7 billion budget gap.

“As the CBC recognized, our administration is the first in at least a decade to meaningfully address budget cliffs and unfunded known needs — all while achieving a record $6.6 billion in savings across two fiscal years and improving budget transparency,” the spokesperson, Charles Lutvak, said in a statement.