Council Members and advocates urge administration to increase number of NYCHA apartments allocated to homeless families

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.

Sincerely,


Stephen Levin

Ritchie Torres

Corey Johnson

Helen Rosenthal

Mark Levine

Ydanis Rodriguez

Vanessa Gibson

Annabel Palma

Costa Constantinides

Daniel Dromm

Donovan Richards

Antonio Reynoso

Laurie Cumbo

Carlos Menchaca

Brad Lander

Inez Barron

Jumaane D. Williams

Participatory Budgeting results announced

Council Member Stephen Levin announced the winners of Participatory Budgeting in District 33 this week. Five projects, at a total of $1.56 million, will be fully-funded by Levin’s office. Originally, funding was to go to $1 million worth of capital projects, but due to the outstanding quality of the projects, Levin included funding for two additional projects.

“I want to thank everyone who came out to vote and made Participatory Budgeting a success for the second year in a row,” said Levin. “Participatory Budgeting is a unique opportunity to get involved in local decision-making and make a real difference. These projects were developed by the community and will serve the community, and I am looking forward to seeing the impact they will have on the lives of residents throughout the district in the years to come.”

For the second year in a row, community members had the opportunity to directly decide how to spend their tax dollars on different ways to improve their neighborhoods. Voters from across the district voted on up to five projects.

The following projects received the most votes and will be funded through Council Member Levin’s office (in winning order):

NYCHA Playground Repairs: Help fund repairs and renovations at four playgrounds, including Gowanus Houses, 572 Warren Street Houses, Wyckoff Gardens, and Jonathan Williams Plaza ($400,000)

Gowanus Community Center Re-Opening: Provide renovations at the Gowanus Community Center ($325,000)

McGolrick Park Playground Reconstruction: Provide a full reconstruction of the McGolrick Park playground ($450,000)

BOOKlyn Shuttle: Purchase and retrofit bus designed by Pratt Institute to inspire, stimulate and improve the literacy of North Brooklyn’s youth. ($198,000)

PS261 Bathroom Renovations: Replace flushers, faucets, and soap dispensers throughout school; complete cosmetic redo of main floor girls and boys bathrooms. ($175,000)

Watch video from the announcement.

CM’s Levin, Wills, and Gibson and advocates applaud Cuomo for action on rental assistance program for New York City homeless population

New York City Council Members Stephen Levin, Ruben Wills, and Vanessa Gibson and homeless advocates are applauding Governor Cuomo for removing language that prevents New York City from using State funds for a rental assistance program for homeless families. The new language in the negotiated budget deal would allow State funds to be used by the City for the purposes of a rental assistance program for homeless families.

Council Members Levin and Wills and homeless advocates visited the State Legislature last Tuesday to advocate for rental assistance for the homeless and met with numerous legislators in the State House and Senate. The City Council passed a resolution sponsored by Council Member Wills that called for the restrictive language to be removed from the state budget.

Council Member Stephen Levin said, “Over the last decade we have seen the level of homelessness in New York City grow to record levels and for too long families have suffered. Families have not been afforded the opportunity to obtain permanent housing and without serious action being taken, the homelessness crisis in our city promises to grow even worse.  While there is still much to be done, the actions taken by Governor Cuomo are crucial to providing the homeless residents of New York City a path out of homelessness.  I applaud Governor Cuomo, leaders from both the State Senate and Assembly, Mayor de Blasio, and all of the advocates for working together and taking this important step in addressing the homelessness crisis in New York City.”

Council Member Ruben Wills said, “I applaud Governor Cuomo, the State Senate and Assembly along with Assembly woman Cook, and Assemblywoman Titus, the chair of the Social Services Committee for their leadership. Their actions showcased New York States commitment in solving the homeless epidemic in New York City through the removal of state limitations on funding for rental subsidies. This change will affect more than 10,000 homeless families including 22,000 children and aid in their participation in the pathway to permanent housing.  The passing of the state budget with the amended changes was needed to address the dismal number of the homeless population in New York City. I thank City Council Member Stephen Levin, chair of the General Welfare Committee and my fellow city council members for supporting the efforts to get this incredibly important work done.”

“Every New Yorker should have access to the safe, quality, affordable housing that is so essential to raising a family and living a comfortable and secure life,” Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson said. “We know from experience that while New York City’s shelter system seeks to address the housing needs of tens of thousands of families every day, it can never replace the permanent housing that shelter residents so desperately need. The 2014-15 state budget provides New York City with the basic flexibility that’s necessary to develop a rent subsidy program that meets the needs of low income New Yorkers struggling to make ends meet in a very challenging economy, and I want to thank Governor Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the leadership of the state Senate, and Mayor de Blasio for recognizing the important role an effective rent subsidy program can play in addressing the needs of so many New Yorkers.”

Patrick Markee, Senior Policy Analyst for the Coalition for the Homeless, said, “The State has taken a needed first step by amending budget language that prevented the City from offering rent subsidies to homeless families. The City and State must now work quickly to provide stable affordable housing to homeless New Yorkers through a new rent subsidy program, priority access to NYCHA housing and Section 8 vouchers, and housing created or preserved in the Mayor’s overall affordable housing plan. Together, these critical steps will begin to reduce the record levels of homelessness facing New York City.”

Christy Parque, Executive Director of Homeless Services United, Inc., said, “The changes contained in the budget language pave the way for a new path to housing for nearly 60,000 New Yorkers. On behalf of Homeless Services United’s members and the homeless New Yorkers we serve we are immensely grateful to Governor Cuomo, the New York State Legislature and the Mayor de Blasio for their collaboration and leadership to create real long lasting housing solutions.”

Judith Goldiner, Attorney in Charge, Civil Law Reform Unit, Legal Aid Society, said,”Over 10,000 homeless families desperately need permanent housing: this agreement is a critical step forward to starting to move families out of shelter.”

Sally Greenspan, Program Director for Vulnerable Populations, Enterprise Community Partners, Inc. said, “Rental assistance is one of the most urgently needed tools to significantly reduce the number of families experiencing the trauma of homelessness in New York City.  The majority of households in shelter face primarily economic barriers to housing, and one in four homeless families has at least one person working.  Providing access to permanent housing will allow these families to build stable, successful lives, which will especially benefit their children.  We commend our government partners on reaching this initial compromise, and we look forward to continuing to work together to build a complete toolkit to prevent and end homelessness in New York.”