The Preliminary Budget for Fiscal Year 2025, the Preliminary Capital Plan for Fiscal Years 2024-2028, and the Fiscal 2024 Preliminary Mayor’s Management Report: Coalition for the Homeless and Legal Aid Society submit testimony

On March 11, 2024, The Coalition for the Homeless and Legal Aid Society testified before the New York City Council’s Committee on General Welfare. As the independent monitor of the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) shelter system and counsel in cases that established the right to shelter in NYC, we offered insights into the impact of proposed funding for the shelter system and programs aiding unhoused New Yorkers.

New York is the richest city on earth, with a municipal budget in excess of $100 billion. Yet, in February 2024, over 120,000 people were sleeping in the DHS shelter system and the network of emergency shelters for asylum seekers and other new arrivals, while thousands of other people were sleeping unsheltered on the streets or temporarily doubled-up in the homes of others. In the face of this unprecedented housing crisis, we called attention to the overlapping challenges facing the City and reiterated our recommendations to solve the crisis.

The Crisis of Homelessness in NYC

By any measure, NYC’s housing and homelessness crisis is at its worst point in nearly a century. Fundamentally, NYC’s homelessness crisis is an affordable housing crisis.

Decades of underinvestment in affordable housing and lack of effective policies have led to this crisis, with a glaring disparity in available affordable units for extremely low-income households.

Challenges in Affordable Housing and Evictions

Rent burdens in NYC have sharply risen, with more than half of renter households spending over 30% of their income on rent. The city’s real estate market dynamics, including a shortage of rent-stabilized units and a near-total lack of affordable apartments, exacerbate the crisis.

Evictions have surged, especially impacting low-income residents and communities of color, highlighting the urgent need for affordable housing solutions.

Challenges in Ensuring Shelter Access

The Coalition and Legal Aid express deep concern over NYC’s challenge to the legal Right to Shelter, noting significant issues faced by clients seeking shelter. Delays and denials of reasonable accommodations for homeless individuals with disabilities further highlight systemic issues.

Despite adding more facilities to accommodate new arrivals, the City fails to provide safe, decent, and accessible shelter, leading to unacceptable situations where individuals are left without beds or are sent to incorrect locations.

Recommendations for Action

The City must increase investments in low-barrier shelters, including Safe Havens and stabilization beds, to address the growing number of unsheltered individuals. Additionally, expanding Intensive Mobile Treatment and Assertive Community Treatment teams is crucial for providing mental health support. The City must uphold the legal Right to Shelter and address budget cuts affecting essential services.

Ultimately, permanent, affordable housing is the only solution to the homelessness crisis that shames our city. We call on NYC to invest in building more housing for homeless and low-income New Yorkers.

Read the full testimony here.