Today’s Listen: The City’s Homelessness Crisis and the Mayor’s Housing Plan

Despite the fact that homelessness continues to hover at record levels – with 63,000 New Yorkers, including 23,000 children, in shelters each night – Mayor de Blasio’s Housing New York 2.0 plan sets aside a mere 5 percent of its 300,000 units for homeless New Yorkers. The Mayor has obstinately refused to commit to the House Our Future NY campaign’s reasonable request to increase the number of units set aside for homeless New Yorkers to 10 percent of his plan: 30,000 units, with 24,000 to be created through new construction.

This week, Coalition for the Homeless Policy Director Giselle Routhier spoke about the urgent need for the House Our Future NY campaign on the WBAI show “Max & Murphy.” The wide-ranging interview with Jarrett Murphy and Ben Max emphasized that housing-based solutions must be embraced on a scale to meet the need in order to actually reduce the number of our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness. Giselle said:

“Throughout the Mayor’s tenure now, we have either reached new record levels of homelessness or hovered around record levels of homelessness the entire time, and we haven’t broken that trajectory. We haven’t been able to actually meaningfully reduce homelessness. At the same time, he has this very ambitious plan to create or preserve 300,000 units of affordable housing. We don’t see the connection between his plan to address homelessness and the work that he’s doing on the housing plan, and that’s something that we’re really focused on currently.”


“The biggest piece that’s lacking is the production of affordable housing. In the Mayor’s ‘Turning the Tide’ plan, he focused on improving the shelter system, streamlining processes and bureaucracy, but made a very modest commitment to actually reduce the number of people who are currently homeless and living in the shelter system by only 2,500 people over five years. That’s not acceptable to us, and it shouldn’t be acceptable to any New Yorker really. So what we’re focusing on here is that the Mayor actually has, in another area of City Hall, a housing plan where he’s going to create or preserve 300,000 units of affordable housing. Right now, barely 5 percent of those units will be going to people who are currently homeless and have the greatest housing need, and double that number – 10 percent – are going to be subsidizing units that will have rents over $2,500 a month. We think that’s a huge mismatch and a huge missed opportunity to actually meaningfully reduce homelessness in New York City. So what we’ve been calling for – and we’ve been doing this in partnership with 60 other organizations and elected officials around the city – is calling for the Mayor to set aside 10 percent of his housing plan, so 30,000 units, specifically for homeless New Yorkers, but with most of those units created through new construction, so built from the ground up. We want 24,000 new construction units, and that’s important because there’s a distinction between new construction and preservation: Most of the preservation units are already occupied, and that’s great, we want to keep those affordable, but they don’t present an opportunity for someone to move out of homelessness and into a new unit. That’s why we’re focused on the new construction piece, and we think this is imminently feasible, and a really doable goal.”

“Right now, we’ve got the majority of City elected officials on board. We’ve got the Comptroller, the Public Advocate, four out of the five Borough Presidents, and the majority of City Council members signed on specifically to the House Our Future campaign. … It’s something that’s on people’s minds. People understand the issue and the need.”

“What we’re asking for here is not the entire housing plan. We’re asking for numbers that are commensurate with the need that we’re seeing, and the record homelessness that New York City has been facing now for many, many years. We’re merely asking for 10 percent of the plan, with the vast majority of those units being brand new construction. I don’t think that’s too much of an ask. Most homeless New Yorkers think that’s definitely not too much to ask. And I think most New Yorkers we’ve been talking to – as evidenced by the groups that have signed on, other Council Members and City elected officials that have also shown support – think this is eminently reasonable. So it doesn’t really make sense to me why [the Mayor is] stuck on this.”

Visit City Limits to listen to the full interview.