Coalition Testifies on Mayor Adams’ Housing Plan

On July 1, 2022, the Coalition for the Homeless testified before the New York City Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings regarding Mayor Adams’ housing plan. 

Last month, Mayor Adams released his housing and homelessness blueprint, Housing Our Neighbors. Regrettably, Mayor Adams’ investments in housing and homelessness do not go far enough to match the scale of the need. Likewise, his failure to articulate clear housing production goals for homeless and extremely low-income New Yorkers suggests that the City will merely continue the egregiously inadequate affordable housing production levels of the previous administration – levels that clearly have not made a dent in the crisis as New York City continues to experience near-record homelessness. The situation is dire, with nearly 50,000 people sleeping in Department of Homeless Services shelters each night and thousands more sleeping on the streets and in other shelters administered by separate City agencies.  

In a welcome departure from previous administrations, Mayor Adams’ plan incorporates expertise from those with lived experience of homelessness as well as other advocates and includes their recommendations related to affordable housing, NYCHA, and homelessness; signals the recognition that homelessness is a housing issue; and notes the need to de-silo the various City agencies involved in tackling the housing crisis. While the Coalition commends Mayor Adams’ holistic approach to housing, the plan in its current state is insufficient because it glaringly lacks clear metrics, is void of detailed policy solutions, and falls far short of sufficient investments in new housing production for homeless and extremely low-income households. As we observed following the plan’s release: 

“While Mayor Adams’ plan has some laudable goals for addressing many of the problems encountered by homeless New Yorkers, more action and investment is needed to actually reduce homelessness. Mayor Adams must dramatically expand the supply of permanent and supportive housing for homeless New Yorkers and extremely low-income households – which takes far bolder housing investments than are included in this plan. We also call on the Mayor to recognize the dignity and humanity of those who will continue to feel safer sleeping on the streets until they can obtain permanent housing by ceasing the cruel and counterproductive sweeps that merely criminalize the most vulnerable among us.” 

As we highlighted in our recent brief Housing Affordability: The Dire Housing Crisis for Extremely Low-Income New Yorkers, hundreds of thousands of households – disproportionately Black and Latinx – are on the verge of homelessness as they struggle to pay extremely high rents while New York’s vacancy rate for the most affordable apartments reaches new lows. While Housing Our Neighbors acknowledges this, it is insufficient  to change that reality.  

The solution to homelessness is housing. In our testimony, we once again urged the City to invest in permanent affordable housing and end the criminalization of unsheltered New Yorkers, a practice which is contrary to the plan’s stated goal of reducing homelessness, and counterproductive to the objective of gaining the trust of unsheltered individuals through outreach and engagement:  

Given the scale of the affordable housing crisis, the City must radically transform its housing policies rather than continuing to tinker around the edges. To start, Mayor Adams must mobilize City agencies to create at least 6,000 new apartments per year for homeless households and an additional 6,000 new apartments per year for households with extremely low incomes. This would be an ambitious but necessary increase above current production levels, particularly if the administration follows through on its plan to expand eligibility for homeless set-aside apartments beyond people sleeping in Department of Homeless Services shelters. For context, throughout the eight years of the de Blasio administration, the City financed only about 2,100 units per year on average for homeless households and just 4,100 units per year for extremely low-income households, consisting primarily of preservation units rather than newly constructed units. The prior administration’s stubborn refusal to align their housing plan with the reality of mass homelessness meant that near-record numbers of New Yorkers languished in shelters and on the streets at the same time Mayor de Blasio touted the record production of allegedly affordable housing. Mayor Adams must learn from the mistakes of the prior administration by significantly ramping up the production of housing for homeless and extremely low-income New Yorkers. 

Our testimony can be read here. For additional City and State policy recommendations, see our State of the Homeless 2022 report.