Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration is looking to require more apartments for the homeless through city-financed housing deals as it bats away a City Council proposal that would legislate a similar requirement.
As part of a broader overhaul, the city is considering requiring all developers who receive a subsidy for affordable housing deals to set aside a minimum of 10 percent of those apartments for homeless people. The changes would be included in new rental housing term sheets, which serve as a guideline for publicly financed housing projects, according to two people briefed on the proposal.
The plan was detailed as part of the administration’s negotiations over a bill introduced by Council Member Rafael Salamanca, which would require all subsidized residential projects to set aside 15 percent of apartments for homeless people. Salamanca said city officials presented him with these changes during discussions on the bill over the past month.
The mayor and incoming Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Vicki Been have said they’re opposed to putting a specific requirement into law. Housing agency officials argue the legislation would take away flexibility when negotiating projects, and could ultimately dissuade affordable housing production in an economic downturn.
Molly Park, HPD’s deputy commissioner for development, said at a hearing in January that the agency continually tweaks its term sheets to reflect changes in city needs, the broader housing market and federal funding streams.
“Adding additional layers of restriction through unbending legislation, while other factors fluctuate widely, will make these deals increasingly difficult to complete,” she said.
Currently, two out of the housing agency’s six term sheets for new affordable rental construction do not include guidelines for dealing with homelessness.
Salamanca argues that without a mandate written into law, the term sheet guidelines pertaining to homelessness can be avoided through negotiations on individual projects.
“We never know what will happen in the next term,” he added. “Who knows who the next mayor will be? The next administration might not have the same thought process about homelessness that we have now.”
Council Speaker Corey Johnson said last week he supports Salamanca’s bill, which currently has enough sponsors to override a mayoral veto.
Activists have called on the mayor to set aside more homeless housing in his broader plan to build or preserve 300,000 affordable housing units by 2026.
Acting housing agency commissioner Eric Enderlin said at a hearing last month the plan is on track to produce 24,000 homeless housing units by the end of that period.
A spokesperson said the agency has revised its term sheets several times during the de Blasio administration.
“We have discussed our proposed changes with the City Council as well as the advocates, are taking their feedback into consideration, and look forward to continuing a productive dialogue about how best to achieve our shared goals of housing more of the homeless and those most vulnerable to homelessness,” she said.