Bloomberg’s Revised Housing Plan: Still Shortchanging the Homeless

Today Mayor Bloomberg announced revisions to his ten-year housing plan, but one thing wasn’t revised:  The plan still shortchanges homeless New Yorkers.

As the New York Times reported, the revised “New Housing Marketplace Plan” will seek to preserve more affordable housing units and build fewer, which will mean, in all likelihood, more assisted units going to lower-income New Yorkers:

“The city plans to ensure that an additional 32,000 units stay affordable for the next 30 years or so, protecting vulnerable lower-income New Yorkers from the next housing boom. In 2005, the city said it would build 92,000 units and preserve 73,000 by 2014. Now, it expects to build 60,000 and preserve 105,000….

“‘We’ve always advocated for more preservation because it costs less, and because preserving apartments typically makes them more available to lower-income households than new construction,’ said Tom Waters, a housing policy analyst at the Community Service Society of New York, an advocacy group for the poor.”

However, while the shift in goals is welcome news, there’s still no question that — at a time of all-time record homelessness — the Bloomberg plan shortchanges those New Yorkers most in need of affordable housing:  homeless families and individuals.

A useful contrast is Mayor Koch’s “Housing New York” plan, a ten-year plan launched in the 1980s when the city’s homeless shelter population was still well below 30,000 people per night.  (During the past decade there have never been fewer than 30,000 homeless people in municipal shelters each night, and now there are more than 39,000 people, including 16,000 children, bedding down in the shelter system.)

According to an analysis by the New School University’s Alex Schwartz, the Koch plan rehabilitated or built 150,682 affordable homes over ten years, and 15,007 of those apartments — fully ten percent of the entire plan — went to homeless families and individuals.  This was one of the major reasons that family homelessness declined dramatically in the late 1980s.

The Bloomberg plan, however, targets only 4 percent of its 165,000 housing units to homeless New Yorkers — at a time of record homelessness.  And, as the Times reported last year, New York City has still lost tens of thousands of affordable apartments despite the efforts of the Mayor’s plan.

In response to the Mayor’s announcement today, the Housing First! coalition called on the Mayor to change the plan and to ensure that at least 10 percent of all housing units assisted by the City are set aside for homeless people.   We think that’s the least the City can do to assist New Yorkers with the greatest housing needs.

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