Coalition Testifies on New York State 2017-2018 Budget

Shelly Nortz, the Coalition’s Deputy Executive Director for Policy, presented testimony before the New York State Assembly and Senate today on Gov. Cuomo’s 2017-2018 proposed budget and the impact it could have on homeless New Yorkers. She summarized the confluence of economic and social factors – eviction, rising housing cost burdens, unemployment, income inequality, population growth and domestic violence, coupled with reduced supportive housing placements and a cumulative deficit in the number of federal housing placements – that have contributed to record homelessness. She highlighted worsening income inequality as a driver of the crisis:

A fundamental of the economics of homelessness is that in cities with low vacancy rates, high housing costs, and extreme income inequality, the people at the lowest end of the income spectrum fall out of the housing market altogether. New York is such a city.

According to the Fiscal Policy Institute’s budget analysis, the percentage of all income going to New York City’s top 1 percent has grown from 12.2 percent in 1980 when modern mass homelessness emerged as a serious problem, to 40.9 percent in 2015, as the crisis of homelessness again became a cause for widespread alarm.

To turn the tide, Shelly called for the State to partner with the City to implement housing-based solutions at a scale that matches the unprecedented magnitude of the need: “As we have previously warned: City investments alone are not sufficient to bring the shelter census down substantially, and greater State investment is required.” Specifically, the State should immediately sign the MOU to release $2 billion set aside for affordable and supportive housing in last year’s budget, and adopt Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi’s Home Stability Support rental subsidy program.

The Coalition’s testimony included the following budget recommendations:

The Executive Budget continues for a third year enhanced funding of $15 million for NYC to support rent supplements to prevent and address homelessness, as added initially by the Assembly two years ago. We support this continued investment, but these investments must be released and put to work.

We support the Executive’s provision of $1 million in general funds for emergency homeless needs, and ask that the TANF line for emergency homeless needs for groups with specified expertise be restored at $1 million as well.

We ask that the Legislature 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/SDI, veterans benefits, and housing.

We recommend inclusion of Assemblymember Hevesi’s Home Stability Support proposal in the budget: It would address the causes of homelessness by preventing thousands of individuals and families from becoming homeless and help those already in shelters move into their own homes. It would more than pay for itself in savings from reduced evictions, shorter shelter stays, and increased housing stability for public assistance households.

We ask that Governor Cuomo and the Legislative leaders release the $2 billion: Homeless New Yorkers have been waiting since 2014 for the promised funds to materialize and to move out of shelters into permanent supportive housing. Each year that passes, as we were recently reminded on Homeless Person’s Memorial Day, is a year when some of our neighbors die: Homeless, alone, too often out on the street. We can and must do better.

Read the full testimony here.