De Blasio Against Council Bill to Increase Affordable Housing for Homeless

The woman behind a viral video showing her confronting Mayor Bill de Blasio, while he was in the middle of a workout, about the lack of housing for the homeless took her grievances to the radio on Friday.

This time, Nathylin Flowers Adesegun, who goes by Flowers, elicited a resounding “no” from the mayor after she asked him to support a City Council proposal that would require developers to set aside 15 percent of units for homeless New Yorkers.

“We just disagree on this as a solution,” de Blasio said Friday during his weekly appearance on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show. “I want to be straightforward — and I have said this at town hall meetings and all sorts of other settings — people have asked me and you can keep asking, it’s a free society, but I’m going to keep giving you the same answer: I disagree that is the right approach.”

Flowers, 79, said she called in from the shelter in which she currently resides. She is a homeless advocate with the nonprofit Vocal-NY. For months, the group has been asking de Blasio to set aside more apartments for the homeless as part of his administration’s plan to create or preserve 300,000 units of affordable housing over the next 10 years.

“Your response to this advocacy is to say that your housing plan is for all New Yorkers,” Flowers said. “When are you going to get with us — do what is right for homeless New Yorkers?”

As currently written, the mayor’s plan only sets aside 5 percent of the units, or 15,000 apartments for the homeless — a figure advocates say does not meet the need of a homeless population that has hit record highs on de Blasio’s watch. The group specifically has asked the mayor to double his commitment by setting aside at least 10 percent of the city’s affordable housing stock for the homeless.

De Blasio has resisted the idea, saying his plan covers a broad swath of economic options which he believes are necessary in order to house people across different income levels, but data show that households that pay the largest share of their income to rent are among the poorest. Only 25 percent of the mayor’s plan goes to those people.

The mayor, who grew audibly frustrated in answering Flowers, also suggested not enough focus has been placed on his administration’s work to house the homeless since he took office in 2014. More than 90,000 homeless residents have received housing assistance since the mayor took office, according to data provided to the city.

“It’s over 90,000 folks who are in shelter over the past five years who have gotten in permanent housing,” de Blasio said. “You keep talking about the different percentages — I respect that but I’m telling you about facts that have already happened — not theory, not something in the future — 90,000 folks who are homeless have been giving permanent housing in the last five years.”

The City Council proposal would specifically require that any rental housing project that receives taxpayer subsidies, including abatements, has to set aside 15 percent of its created or preserved units for New Yorkers living in the shelter system.

The bill, Intro 1211, has the support of Council Speaker Corey Johnson and 17 members have signed on so far. If the legislation secures majority support, it could set up a fight between the Council and de Blasio, who has yet to veto a bill since taking office in 2014.

Asked about the bill Friday, de Blasio suggested he would negotiate on the proposal.

“I’ll always talk to the Council about what we are trying to achieve,” he said. “I just don’t think this is the best way to achieve it.”