Coalition Testifies on Affordable Housing for Homeless New Yorkers

On Monday, Coalition for the Homeless and The Legal Aid Society presented testimony before the New York City Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings in support of Council Member Rafael Salamanca Jr.’s Intro. 1211, which would require developers who receive City financial assistance for housing preservation and new construction to set aside at least 15 percent of units in each project for homeless individuals and families.

While Mayor de Blasio has obstinately refused to set aside more than 5 percent of his 300,000-unit Housing New York 2.0 plan for the record number of homeless New Yorkers, Council Members have recognized the need for bold solutions to move people out of shelters and into permanent housing. By requiring homeless set-aside units in every housing development that receives City financing, Intro. 1211 would provide a critical tool to help achieve the overall House Our Future NY Campaign’s target of 30,000 apartments, including 24,000 new construction, for homeless New Yorkers.

Representatives from some of the 62 organizations that have endorsed the House Our Future NY Campaign joined Council Member Salamanca for a press conference prior to Monday’s hearing to reiterate the urgent need for more permanent housing for homeless New Yorkers. Coalition for the Homeless Policy Director Giselle Routhier explained:

“New York City’s homelessness crisis is currently at record levels. Without immediate action that creates deeply subsidized permanent housing, this crisis will only continue to grow with no end in sight. We applaud Council Member Salamanca for introducing legislation that would provide the practical tools needed to help homeless individuals and families obtain housing in our city. His legislation will go a long way toward helping us reach the House our Future NY Campaign’s goal of setting aside 30,000 units of the Mayor’s housing plan for homeless New Yorkers, including 24,000 units to be created through new construction. While Mayor de Blasio drags his feet, failing to take the long-overdue action to address this crisis, we are most grateful to the entire Council for their continued leadership and advocacy on behalf of homeless New Yorkers.”

Our testimony provided further details on the City’s woefully inadequate progress in providing permanent housing to homeless New Yorkers:

Intro 1211 provides one of the tools necessary for the City to increase the number of new construction units built for homeless households. It does so by requiring a minimum of 15 percent of all units created or preserved in projects that receive City funding to be set aside for homeless individuals and families. Currently, there is no across-the-board requirement for homeless set-aside units in projects that receive City funding. Some HPD term sheets require homeless set-aside units, but a full 40 percent of new units developed so far have not been in developments that utilized one of these term sheets. Moreover, in some cases HPD term sheets are not even reaching their currently inadequate homeless set-aside goals. For example, the Mix and Match Term Sheet requirement that 10 percent of units in each development be set aside for homeless families and individuals has largely been ignored. To date, of the 5,300 units created under Mix and Match, fewer than 5 percent have been set aside for homeless households.  For these reasons, we fully support Intro 1211. It will provide a critical minimum threshold that will help move us toward the House Our Future NY goal of 20 percent of all new construction being developed specifically for homeless individuals and families.

In addition to promoting more production of units for homeless people, we also believe transparent and regular reporting by HPD about housing preservation and production should be required and would urge Council Members to introduce such legislation. Specifically, we suggest requiring routine reporting on the number of units and projects financed, broken down by new construction and preservation, AMI brackets, homeless set-aside units (in addition to and separate from supportive housing), and supportive housing units. We also recommend requiring reporting on the number of units leased for occupancy by homeless individuals and families in HPD developments. We recently had to sue HPD in order to obtain these data, which show that just 1,660 homeless households moved out of shelters and into HPD-financed units over the past four years. In contrast, more than 23,000 households moved out of shelters with the assistance of DSS-funded vouchers, including LINC, CityFEPS, and SEPS during the same period.

In sum, the City’s housing agencies can and must do far more to help stem the ongoing homelessness crisis – providing only a few hundred placements per year is a paltry effort unworthy of a mayor pledging to create the fairest city in the land.

The full testimony can be read here.