From Rent Regs to Rezonings, 2019 Will Feature Key Housing Policy Fights

It was the first slushy, snow day of the year for New Yorkers on November 15 and the city was unprepared — but that did not stop hundreds of activists, residents and organizations from marching through the downtown streets for fair housing and stronger rent laws.

The protesters came from every part of the city and state to gather outside the Bowling Green subway station across from Battery Park. By 5 p.m. the temperature had dropped and there was a mix of hail, snow and rain in the air. But the protesters were just warming up on the makeshift drums they banged as they yelled “Stand up, fight back.”

Today’s Read: State Homeless Population Larger Than Population in All But Two New York Cities

The fact that 63,000 people, including 23,000 children, spent Thanksgiving in a New York City municipal shelter is heartbreaking. And when you add all of the New Yorkers across the entire state who experienced homelessness at some point last year, whether in shelters or doubled-up, the total rises to an astonishing 254,866 people – a number larger than the population of every city in the state except for New York City and Buffalo.

The record levels of homelessness demand bold, statewide solutions. One of the most promising proposals in recent years has been Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi’s Home Stability Support, a statewide rent subsidy that would bridge the difference between the woefully inadequate public assistance shelter allowance and actual rents for households facing eviction, homelessness, or loss of housing due to domestic violence or hazardous conditions. Despite bipartisan support and proven fiscal savings, Governor Cuomo has resisted Home Stability Support, claiming he is doing enough already through his $20 billion housing and homelessness plan. However, Division of the Budget officials have clarified that much of this $20 billion is not actually new funding, but rather a mix of existing funds and tax credits. With more New Yorkers experiencing homelessness than ever before, the State’s current strategy is clearly insufficient.

Wes Parnell and Kenneth Lovett wrote about the bleak milestone in the Daily News:

Alarming new data compiled by Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi and the Coalition for the Homeless found that 254,866 New Yorkers were homeless at some point over the past year, a number exceeding the population of every community statewide except New York City and Buffalo.

Even worse, roughly three out of every five homeless New Yorkers were of school age — up a staggering 68% since 2011, the numbers indicate.

“Things are really bad,” said Shelly Nortz, of the Coalition for the Homeless. “We’re not even treading water on addressing homelessness. It’s a problem that manifests itself in ways that are both seen and unseen.”

According to the data provided by the coalition and Hevesi, 129,803 men, women and children were in the New York City shelter system at some point in 2017-18.

There were also 76,836 homeless students in New York City who are not in shelters, including those who live in housing belonging to someone else. Another 38,180 students are homeless in other parts of the state.

“That number is going up astronomically,” Nortz said of school-age homelessness.

Hevesi, the Queens Democrat who chairs the Assembly Social Services Committee, said the state relies too much on shelters rather than finding ways to keep people in their homes.

“We’re spending billions on the world’s most expensive band-aid, while simply failing to deal with the root of the problem,” said Hevesi. “The long-term solution is by far the more cost-effective solution, but the governor refuses to act. It’s time he told the taxpayers why.”

Hevesi for several years has pushed a Home Stability Support program intended to reduce reliance on homeless shelters by creating a new rent subsidy to keep people in their residences.

The measure, which has widespread bipartisan support in the Legislature, would cost the state and feds $450 million. But Hevesi has argued it would ultimately save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars by relying less on costly shelters.

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