Council Bill to Increase Homeless Housing Has Enough Sponsors to Override Veto

A bill that would substantially increase the amount of housing set aside for homeless New Yorkers now has enough sponsors in the City Council to override a veto, as the de Blasio administration remains resistant to the idea.

The legislation, introduced by Council Member Rafael Salamanca, would require developments receiving city subsidies to set aside 15 percent of housing units for the homeless. Proponents say increased housing supply is needed to address the city’s enduring homelessness crisis, but the de Blasio administration argues the bill would hinder its ability to produce affordable housing.

With 34 Council Members now signed on in support, a Council vote on Intro 1211 could override a mayoral veto, presuming all the current sponsors vote in favor.

“I think we caught [the city’s] attention when we got it veto-proof,” Salamanca said Tuesday. “The message is clear now, that the majority of the City Council knows that this is the direction this administration should go in.”

Council Speaker Corey Johnson has stopped short of publicly backing the bill, but he has called for more homeless-specific housing in the mayor’s affordable housing plan. The existing plan to build or preserve 300,000 affordable housing units by 2026 — which some critics say has left out the city’s most vulnerable populations — sets aside 5 percent of all units for the homeless.

“If we don’t increase the set-aside, we’re likely not going to get out of this shelter population plateau for potentially years,” Johnson said in October.

Salamanca said Johnson has told him that he is supportive. A Council spokesperson said the Speaker supports increasing the set-aside and is reviewing the legislation.

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development has said it already requires city-subsidized developments to set aside 10 percent of housing units for the homeless, as laid out in agency term sheets. Legislating an increased requirement, the department has said, would take away the flexibility it needs when working out financing for affordable housing developments.

“I do have real concerns about the mechanism proposed in [the bill],” Molly Park, deputy commissioner for development at the agency, said at a hearing earlier this month.

“Our term sheets must remain highly flexible to respond to outside factors in addition to our policy changes,” she said. “Adding additional layers of restriction through unbending legislation, while other factors fluctuate widely, will make these deals increasingly difficult to complete.”

Salamanca said he was unconvinced by the city’s arguments at the hearing, but plans to sit down with the housing agency and mayor’s office to further discuss the bill.

The city did not have a specific comment on the veto-proof majority.

(via PoliticoPro New York)

CityViews: State Must Equip the City to Truly Combat the Homeless Crisis

Across the five boroughs, homelessness has become too commonplace. Many of its victims are living on the streets, sleeping in parks, and escaping these cold winter months underground in the subways. An all-time record 63,500 New Yorkers sleep in shelters every night, including over 23,000 children. Every New Yorker should have a right to quality, affordable housing, but we have failed as the largest urban center in the country to deliver that to our most vulnerable communities.

The city’s housing landscape has only further exacerbated the ongoing record homelessness. Since 1993, the five boroughs have cumulatively lost 152,000 rent-regulated apartments, with an additional 130,000 converted to co-ops and condominiums. Government must maximize its capacity to turn the tide on this ever-increasing crisis.

Mayor de Blasio’s plan to combat homelessness was a good start, but its commitment to permanent housing solutions falls short for the magnitude of the emergency we face. His proposed set-aside of five percent of a projected 300,000 new and preserved affordable apartments scheduled to be built between now and 2026 does not address the immediate housing needs for tens of thousands of New Yorkers who are ready to leave the shelter system.

Coalition Testifies on NYS Executive Budget 2019

Last week, Coalition for the Homeless submitted testimony to the Fiscal Committees of the New York State Legislature on the NYS Executive Budget 2019. Although there are some positive developments in the recently released Executive Budget, Governor Cuomo has chosen to generally maintain the status quo in the face of record homelessness. For example, the Executive Budget does not include new supportive housing investments despite surging homelessness among single adults and delays in meeting annual targets for supportive housing production.

The budget also fails to fund the Home Stability Support rent subsidy proposal, which would bridge the difference between the public assistance shelter allowance and actual rents for households facing eviction, homelessness, or loss of housing due to domestic violence or hazardous conditions. Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi first introduced Home Stability Support in June 2016, at a time when 60,042 men, women, and children slept in NYC shelters each night. As the State has neglected to adopt this desperately needed rent subsidy, the number of people in NYC shelters has risen to an all-time record 63,636 people. While Albany has stalled, thousands more New Yorkers have fallen into homelessness.

The Coalition’s testimony included the following recommendations for State agencies to more effectively tackle homelessness:

OTDA

  • Implement the Home Stability Support program introduced by Assemblymember Hevesi and Senator Krueger, endorsed by dozens of state and local elected officials.
  • Increase the Personal Needs Allowance for homeless individuals and families – for most, a paltry allowance of just $22.50 twice a month provided in lieu of public assistance – that has not been increased in decades.
  • Reject plan to continue the authority to withhold public assistance funds from localities related to homeless outreach plans and services.
  • Require NYS to participate equally in the non-federal share of the costs of shelters and rent supplements (other than HSS) to prevent and address homelessness.
  • Amend the NYC Shelter Savings law in lieu of the Shelter Rent requirement to eliminate sanctions and prohibit shelter rent statewide.
  • Reject the requirement that NYC contribute 10 percent toward the cost of Emergency Assistance to Families and Family Assistance.
  • Support the Executive’s provision of $1 million in general funds for Emergency Homeless Needs, and restore the TANF line for these needs targeted to groups with specified expertise at $1 million.
  • Provide $1 million for the Client Advocacy Program (at one time annually funded in the budget by the Legislature) through which chronically homeless disabled people are assisted in securing Federal SSI/SSDI, veterans benefits, and housing.

Budget Priorities, Other Agencies

  • HCR: Accelerate the Supportive Housing pipeline to complete 20,000 units in ten years to address pent-up need and record-low supportive housing placements. This will save costs by developing these units earlier as a hedge against rising land prices and labor contract inflation, and act as an economic stimulus proven to create jobs and tax revenue.
  • Reform the rent laws to eliminate de-control and vacancy bonuses, and to protect tenants affected by preferential rent and other landlord devices that harm tenants and thwart the rent regulation.
  • OMH: Increase funds for Crisis Respite and adequately fund community housing providers.
  • OCFS: Raise Foster Care prevention, reunification, and independent living rent subsidies to $600 per month.
  • SED: Authorize children’s camps to employ licensed social workers.
  • Congestion Pricing: Exempt mobile food program and homeless outreach vehicles serving homeless and disabled individuals – this policy will otherwise add over $12,000 or more to our food program costs each year.
  • DOH: Establish a regulatory framework/licensure statute to authorize the operation of medical respite programs to serve homeless people with medical needs that cannot be met in shelters, who do not require hospitalization or a nursing home level of care.
  • Rent Freeze/Real Property Tax Abatements: Expand rent increase exemptions and related real property tax abatements to include families with a disabled child or other family member who is not the head of household, and low income tenants on fixed incomes.
  • Corrections: Require proper discharge planning for parolees being released to the community so that they are not transferred to shelters, or kept in prison beyond their sentences.

The full testimony can be read here.

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