Despite a record 63,559 people sleeping in NYC shelters each night and thousands more bedding down on the streets, Mayor de Blasio has stubbornly defended his decision to allocate a mere 5 percent of his 300,000-unit affordable housing plan to homeless New Yorkers. The Coalition launched the House Our Future NY Campaign this year to urge the Mayor to increase the number of apartments set aside for homeless New Yorkers to 10 percent of his Housing New York 2.0 plan – 30,000 units, including 24,000 to be created as new construction.
In the face of mounting pressure and homelessness persistently reaching new records, the de Blasio administration has insisted they are doing enough to address the problem. Notably, they have refused to provide data on the number of households that have actually moved out of shelters and into permanent affordable housing units set aside for homeless New Yorkers financed by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. HPD Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer estimated at a November 2017 Council hearing that the number of households moved out was around 1,200 households over four years – a small number reflecting stinginess in the Mayor’s housing plan given that there are nearly 33,000 households staying in shelters each night. When the Coalition later asked for precise, updated figures, HPD incorrectly claimed the data did not exist.
After months of fruitless attempts to get this information from the City through repeated Freedom of Information Law requests, the Coalition was left with no choice but to file a lawsuit against the City to procure what should be basic data.
Greg B. Smith wrote about the lawsuit for the Daily News:
During the November 2017 hearing, Councilmember Stephen Levin, (D-Brooklyn) called the de Blasio effort to place families in city-funded apartments “underwhelming.” Commissioner Torres-Springer then promised a more aggressive effort going forward.
In May, the Coalition filed a Freedom of Information Law request asking that the city provide them with the specific numbers of homeless household placements into HPD-financed housing set aside for the homeless. The agency refused to turn over their data, claiming it didn’t exist.
On Friday, the Coalition filed suit in Manhattan Supreme Court demanding the city open up the books. Giselle Routhier, the Coalition’s policy director, called the stonewalling “extremely frustrating.”
“We are really trying to get an answer to what we think is a very straightforward question – what impact has the mayor’s affordable housing plan had on homelessness,” she said. “We don’t know how many people who are currently homeless have been moved into units that were created with this financing.”
The Coalition notes that HPD has acknowledged it maintains this data on placements of shelter users into HPD-sponsored housing, and argues in papers filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, “It is ludicrous to believe that HPD is incapable of fully providing the records which (the Coalition) requested.”
The City did provide some data following the Daily News report, despite their prior assertions that such data did not exist.