Coalition for the Homeless Policy Brief Finds ‘Lost Decade’ Major Cause Underlying Historic Family Homelessness

Nearly 32,000 households were denied access to permanent housing assistance between FY 2005 and FY 2014 

Report Outlines Steps State, City Must Take Immediately to Match the Scale of Crisis

New York, NY – The Coalition for the Homeless released today a new policy brief on family homelessness, outlining how the City arrived at current levels of record family homelessness. The report finds that by the end of 2016, nearly 16,000 families consisting of more than 48,000 people were sleeping in homeless shelters each night. It also found that since January 2014, the number of adults and children in the family shelter system increased by 14 percent.

The report, which was released at a press conference with City and State officials, finds that the current crisis is fueled in no small part by a “Lost Decade” between FY 2005 and FY 2014, in which nearly 32,000 households were denied access to permanent housing assistance. The report also finds that while some of the City’s efforts to combat homelessness have shown signs of success, there are still several steps the City and State must take in order to coordinate efforts to end homelessness and invest in proven solutions.

“While the City and the Mayor have taken important steps to combat homelessness, bold action is still required to remedy this unprecedented crisis. Eviction, overcrowding, and domestic violence continue to drive the family homelessness crisis even as 8,500 more families have moved into stable housing placements under the de Blasio administration than in the final four years of the Bloomberg administration,” said Giselle Routhier, Policy Director of the Coalition for the Homeless. “We know the solutions that work and they must be brought to scale to meet the unprecedented need: The City must immediately increase the number of public housing placements for homeless families from 1,500 per year to 3,000 and implement a right to legal counsel in housing court for low-income tenants. Additionally, the State must step up and release nearly $2 billion for affordable and supportive housing as well as create and fund Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi’s Home Stability Support proposal. ”

“Homelessness in New York has reached record levels, our shelters are overburdened, and more and more families are at risk of becoming homeless. In order to effectively combat homelessness we must address the root cause of this crisis, which is a serious shortage of affordable housing,” said NYS Assemblymember Hevesi. “The State must partner with the City and invest in long-term solutions to this terrible crisis, such as building the supportive housing promised a year ago, and creating a long-term rent subsidy program, like my proposed Home Stability Support program. Only then will we be able to get New York’s families off the street and into permanent homes.”

“The City has a legal obligation to shelter homeless families, but what homeless children need more than anything else is a home,” said Judith Goldiner, the Attorney in Charge of Civil Law Reform at The Legal Aid Society. “The State should fund the supportive housing it committed to and adopt Assemblymember Hevesi’s housing subsidy proposal. The City should make up the deficit of ten years of lost NYCHA placements for homeless families, and require developers receiving public subsidies to offer apartments to shelter residents. If the City and State do not take these steps, the shelter census will continue to grow.”

“Our current homelessness crisis is the most pressing issue of our time, so we need creative, financially-sensible solutions and that is exactly what the Right to Counsel and the Home Stability Support plan are,” said Councilmember Donovan Richards, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. “These plans will help provide security and protection to struggling homeowners, as well as tapping into federal assistance programs that will help us save money while also saving homeowners and tenants in danger of evictions. I am proud to stand with my colleagues in the City and State to support these common sense proposals that will help secure homes for tens of thousands of mothers, fathers and children throughout New York.”

“In a dynamic city such as ours, we all need to make a concerted effort to ensure that those of us most at risk to become homeless are provided the tools and opportunities to avoid such a fate,” said Councilmember Annabel Palma. “This is not a simple process, but through a myriad of initiatives, such as: providing counsel for evictions, increasing public housing units for homeless families, and investing in a Home Stability Support proposal, we can make an attempt to provide an adequate support system to contain – and eventually reduce – this epidemic. I support the Coalition for the Homeless and their valiant mission to do just that.”

“New York City is in the midst of a homelessness crisis that is severely impacting our most vulnerable residents, currently 23,365 children are living in our city’s shelter system,” said Councilmember Ben Kallos. “We should be doing everything we can to prevent more families from ending up in already crowded shelters. The Home Stability Support program will be a much-needed lifeline for families who are on the brink of losing their homes and ending up on the streets or in a shelter. New York State should adopt this proposal as a part of a serious plan to end this crisis in our state and city.”

“The housing affordability and homelessness crises in NYC continue to rip families apart and leave many on the streets. We need innovative solutions that will lead to stable homes – the Home Stability Program, right to counsel and investment in public housing, are several proposals that can help stem homelessness. The City and State should be partnering every day to come up with solutions. Our residents deserve nothing less,” said Councilmember Ritchie Torres of the Bronx.

Key Findings:

  • In FY 2013, only 2 percent of family exits from shelters to housing were to long-term stable placements, but with the recent restoration of public housing preferences and long-term rent subsidies, the rate of placements into stable homes increased to 30 percent in FY 2015 and to 40 percent in FY 2016.
  • The City is now placing more homeless families into stable homes than at any time since 2004: The City made roughly 10,000 stable housing placements for families in the first two-and-a-half years of Mayor de Blasio’s administration (compared with the fewer than 1,300 made by Mayor Bloomberg in his last four years in office).
  • An increase in stable housing initiatives has decreased the number of families returning to shelters, while the number of newly homeless families entering the shelters continues to fuel the ongoing crisis.
  • The dominant drivers of family homelessness continue to be eviction, overcrowding, and domestic violence.
  • The recent increase in homelessness was likely fed by higher unemployment. While the city’s labor market is stronger than it was during the Great Recession, there was a reduction in the number of people employed of about 129,000 between March and August of 2016, with a corresponding increase of 35,198 in the number receiving unemployment between June and October.
  • The number of family applicants found eligible for shelter has increased since 2014, owing to reforms in the shelter application process that made it marginally less onerous for the truly needy.
  • During the “Lost Decade” from the end of FY 2005 to FY 2014, when the City cut off access to NYCHA public housing and Section 8 for homeless families, the City denied access to nearly 32,000 households who could have otherwise been permanently housed.

The report also outlines key steps New York City and State can take immediately to reduce homelessness. 

The City must: 

  • Immediately increase the number of public housing placements for homeless families from 1,500 per year to at least 3,000 and the number of Section 8 and HPD resources to at least 2,500 placements, for a minimum of 5,500 annual placements to begin to recoup the nearly 32,000 placements denied to homeless families during the “Lost Decade”;
  • Continue to place at least 3,000 families through City-funded rent subsidy programs each year;
  • Implement more aggressive homelessness prevention policies, such as establishing a right to legal counsel in housing court for low-income tenants; and
  • Aggressively enforce the source-of-income anti-discrimination law with landlords who illegally reject families who attempt to utilize housing vouchers.

 The State must:

  • Immediately release the nearly $2 billion for affordable and supportive housing funds appropriated in 2016 and currently stalled due to inaction by the Governor and Legislative leaders; and
  • Implement Assembly Member Hevesi’s proposal to create a State- and Federally-funded long-term rent subsidy program, known as Home Stability Support.

The full report is available at: