Today, members of the New York City Council sent a letter to the de Blasio administration to increase the number of public housing apartments allocated to homeless families to at least 2,500 units each year.
The letter comes after NYCHA proposed an allocation of only 750 public housing apartments each year to homeless families. This is far less than the City allocated under previous mayors, and despite the fact that the number of homeless families and children is far higher now than under previous administrations. Close to 53,000 New Yorkers are in the shelter system, including 23,000 children, numbers that are up for previous years.
Council Member Stephen Levin, Chair of the General Welfare Committee, said, “The seriousness of the homelessness crisis needs to be matched with a serious commitment to providing housing for vulnerable families. Homelessness is at an all-time high in New York City, yet NYCHA has proposed allocating far fewer units for homeless families than were set aside in previous administrations. It is crucial that the number of NYCHA apartments allocated to homeless families is increased this year and in the coming years.”
“The City can and should do more to leverage its expansive stock of public housing as a long-term solution to homelessness,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres, Chair of the Committee on Public Housing. “Expanding the homeless priority for vacant NYCHA apartments will better ensure that our most vulnerable families have access to the safety and stability of a decent home. “
“Mayor de Blasio’s administration inherited a City which is facing an affordable housing crisis that has pushed a record number of families into a homeless shelter system that is increasingly bursting at the seams,” Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson said. “New York’s burgeoning number of homeless families need, want and deserve access to affordable housing and it’s critical for NYCHA to commit more of its existing housing resources to this critical need.”
“Housing in New York City is a challenge for several populations, more specifically families, young adults aging out of foster care and veterans,” said Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo. “We must allocate more resources to aid these individuals in their transition from temporary to permanent housing.”
“We cannot allow the amount of NYCHA apartments allocated to homeless families to decrease while homelessness continues to increase,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm. “We call on the de Blasio administration to dedicate 2,500 NYCHA units each year for homeless families. Families need a stable home outside of the sometimes volatile shelter system where they can build their lives.”
“Finding permanent housing for homeless New Yorkers is already a scarcity, and if NYCHA only allocates 750 public housing apartments per year to homeless families, then the number of families sleeping each our city’s shelters will significantly rise. I am proud to stand with my colleagues, Council Member Stephen Levin and Ritchie Torres, to urge the administration to increase the number of public housing apartments allocated to homeless families. With a collaborative effort between the Mayor, City Council Members, and NYCHA, we will soon be able to ensure that the neediest families in New York have a permanent roof over their head,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams.
Council Member Carlos Menchaca said, “I join my colleagues in asking that the mayor, NYCHA, and all relevant stakeholders to reconsider their proposed number of slots in public housing for homeless families this year. It is clear that we are in dual affordability and homelessness crises, and public housing is one of the most dramatic ways where we can deliver much needed housing security to our most vulnerable families. This request would be a very practical win for all, and would send a clear message across the City that we are fully committed to the housing security of our residents.”
“We simply cannot ignore the families that need us most,” said Council Member Donovan Richards. “Prioritizing the NYCHA applications of homeless families is a common sense approach that will benefit our city greatly. Preventing homelessness, particularly for those who are employed, empowers and supports self-sufficiency. Not only will this improve quality of life within our city by reducing the number of homeless families, but this will also decrease the demand on our shelter system. I urge the de Blasio administration to consider these changes, as they have the capability to improve the lives of our most vulnerable population.”
Council Member Brad Lander said, “Every year at the end of the school year we see a spike in family homelessness. People think the biggest spike is in the winter, but it’s actually in the summer when families who were staying somewhere just to keep their kids in school no longer have a place to stay.
We know what we need to do and it starts by allocating enough NYCHA units to get families out of shelters and into homes.”
“Approximately 30% of homeless families are working New Yorkers who need a home,” said Council Member Corey Johnson. “NYCHA should prioritize these families and dedicate 2,500 units each year to help homeless New Yorkers find permanent, stable housing. We as a city need to use all the resources we have available to end the epidemic of homelessness, and making sure NYCHA is a partner in that effort is critical to its success.”
Council Member Costa Constantinides said, “We need to increase the level of NYCHA housing that is allocated to homeless families. Our communities’ neediest families and children deserve a safe and reliable place to live. If we take these steps forward in combating homelessness, our entire community will benefit. I commend my colleagues Council Members Torres and Levin for their leadership on this issue.”
Advocates for the homeless joined Council Members in calling for action to address the homelessness crisis in New York City.
Mary Brosnahan, President & CEO, Coalition for the Homeless, said, “New York City needs a response to the homelessness crisis that is big enough to match the unprecedented scale of the problem. Mayors Koch, Dinkins and Giuliani all successfully used NYCHA public housing apartments to move tens of thousands of homeless New Yorkers out of shelters and into permanently affordable homes. Without making full use of this critical and cost-effective resource, it is hard to see how New York City can reduce the tragic and unacceptable number of families sleeping in our shelters every night.”
Judith Goldiner, Attorney in Charge, Law Reform Unit, The Legal Aid Society, said, “At a time of record homelessness, NYCHA should be using all of its available resources to help DHS meet its obligations to shelter families by providing permanent housing assistance to homeless families in shelter. In the first term of the Bloomberg administration, NYCHA allocated thousands of federal subsidies to homeless families, so we know NYCHA can do it. Currently, NYCHA allocates 2500 apartments a year for households who are working but who have no demonstrated need for housing, arguably the least needy families on NYCHA’s wait list. We urge NYCHA to immediately eliminate the “working preference” and allocate 2500 apartments a year for homeless families thereby ensuring that New Yorkers most vulnerable residents have access to stable, affordable housing.”
Read the full letter below (or see attachment):
Dear Mayor de Blasio,
While we are encouraged by your administration’s significant and early efforts to address New York’s historic homelessness crisis, we write to express our concerns that the City’s plan does not allocate nearly the sufficient number of public housing apartments to help homeless families and children obtain permanent housing.
As you know, previous New York City mayors successfully used federal housing programs to address the problem of family homelessness. Mayors Koch, Dinkins, Giuliani – and even Bloomberg in his first term – made priority referrals of tens of thousands of homeless families to New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) public housing apartments, along with federal Section 8 housing vouchers.
This successful approach was the cornerstone of New York City’s efforts to ensure needy homeless children and families could secure stable, permanent housing and saved taxpayers millions of dollars each year that would otherwise have been spent on the costly shelter system.
Unfortunately, nearly a decade ago Mayor Bloomberg eliminated priority referrals of homeless families to NYCHA public housing and housing vouchers – effectively denying the neediest NYC access to federal housing aid – and your administration inherited the resulting unprecedented crisis.
This much is clear: A problem this big requires big solutions. Reducing the record number of homeless families with children in New York City will require a significant commitment of permanent housing resources, and in particular public housing apartments.
For that reason we are extremely disappointed by NYCHA’s current proposal to allocate only 750 public housing apartments each year to homeless families. This is far less than the City allocated under previous mayors, despite the fact that the number of homeless families and children is far higher now than under previous administrations. The current proposal represents less than 15% of NYCHA vacancies. And it comes at a time when the housing authority, continuing a Giuliani-era policy, actually prioritizes thousands of public housing apartments for households with no demonstrated housing needs – including hundreds of families whose annual incomes exceed $40,000.
We believe the City of New York can and must do more to help the neediest families and children with our federal housing resources. We urge you and your administration to increase the number of public housing apartments allocated to homeless families to at least 2,500 units each year. In addition, in light of the fact that approximately 30% of homeless families are working, we urge you to prioritize this population in NYCHA’s working family priority list. Only with such a commitment can we begin to stem the rise of family homelessness, and finally begin to reduce the number of families sleeping each night in our shelter system.
In addition, we understand the financial constraints faced by NYCHA. We are committed to working with NYCHA and the City to ensure the cost of needed support services for families leaving the shelter system and entering NYCHA are not borne by NYCHA alone.
We look forward to working with you and your administration towards our shared goal of ending homelessness in New York City.
Jumaane D. Williams