How Do Rent-Burdened New Yorkers Cope?

Housing is generally considered affordable if a household allots no more than 30 percent of its income to home payments and utilities. By that standard, more than half of renters in New York City are “cost-burdened” and may find it hard to pay for other necessities like food, clothing and medical care.

Success and Struggles Point to a Better Way to Help NYC’s Chronically Homeless

For three years, Mark Williams has come home to his own studio apartment in a spacious six-story building on the western edge of Fordham manor. But even now, Williams remembers exactly what it’s like to freeze on the New York City streets in the winter:

“Dead man’s cold.”

Williams is one of 46 formerly homeless veterans living in supportive housing at Kingsbridge Terrace, an apartment building operated by Jericho Project, a 33-year old nonprofit that runs 500 of New York City’s 32,000 such units. In supportive housing, affordable rents—each resident pays one-third of his income—are combined with social services like therapy, substance abuse treatment and career counseling. The model has long been heralded as an effective tool to reduce both homelessness and city spending. One study showed that supportive housing for frequent users of the shelter, jail and hospital system saved around $15,000 per person.

The Rise and Fall of ‘Clean and Sober’ in Supportive Housing

New York City’s homeless population is no monolith, and the 2005 NY/NYIII supportive-housing funding agreement explicitly recognized that. Kingsbridge Terrace, a supportive housing facility run by Jericho Project in the Bronx, was in part funded for “Population F”—substance users who recently finished treatment.

Including substance users in supportive housing was controversial to earlier planners. While those agreements ended up including many homeless individuals who had struggled with addiction, they were accepted into the program because of serious mental illnesses, not because of their drug or alcohol problems. As Ted Houghton put it in his history of the field, “in our society’s constantly shifting definitions of deserving and undeserving poor, substance abusers rarely escape the latter category.”

More » Previous »