Homeless New Yorkers looking to use rental assistance vouchers to move out of city shelters are still struggling with discrimination by landlords, insufficient funding and a perpetually tight housing market, according to interviews with care providers and city officials.
While providers have applauded Mayor Bill de Blasio for expanding voucher funding early in his administration, a number of factors are making it difficult for qualifying adults and families to use the vouchers to find apartments, causing clients to spend longer times in shelter than necessary. That is contributing to record numbers of New Yorkers in shelter amid an intractable homelessness crisis in New York City.
For the past four years, New York City has tried to persuade landlords and real estate brokers to rent apartments to low-income people and homeless people with bonuses and pledges that rent would be guaranteed with government vouchers.
The incentives have helped thousands of people move into permanent housing throughout the city. But some landlords have still refused to accept vouchers, city officials said, which is against the law for buildings with six apartments or more.
New York City is facing a crisis. There are more than 60,000 homeless individuals living in the city shelter system daily, and thousands more in shelters for survivors of domestic violence, youth, and those living with HIV/AIDS. An additional estimated 4,000 New Yorkers sleep on the streets each night. And according to the Coalition for the Homeless, the number of homeless New Yorkers sleeping each night in municipal shelters is 83 percent higher than it was a decade ago.
These numbers are staggering. We, as elected leaders have a responsibility to do better and fully invest in solutions that work.