Today’s Read: Cuomo Must Keep His Promise to the Homeless

An extensive body of research clearly proves the efficacy of supportive housing in ending homelessness and saving taxpayer dollars. What isn’t clear is why Gov. Cuomo continues to impede the development of desperately needed new supportive units by letting weeks pass by without signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) required in the budget approved in April.

Instead of signing the full MOU and releasing the $1.9 billion allocated for affordable and supportive housing in the State budget – of which $1 billion is slated for supportive housing – Gov. Cuomo and the leaders of the Senate and Assembly signed a partial MOU in the final hours of the legislative session to release a mere $150 million, which they claim will fund the first year of the Governor’s 15-year, 20,000-unit plan. However, supportive housing developers require longer-term funding commitments to leverage investment. Meanwhile, 80,000 New Yorkers statewide languish in shelters and on the street.

In an op-ed for New York Slant, New York City Councilmember Stephen Levin and New York State Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi explain the financing process for supportive housing – reiterating the urgent need for Cuomo and State leaders to sign the MOU and release the full $1.9 billion without further delay.

However, at the end of the legislative session, the governor instead announced a one-year plan to use $150 million to fund up to 1,200 units – a fraction of his initial promise. His office claimed those funds are the first year of a five-year commitment, but unfortunately even if the governor keeps his word, the five-year commitment would fund only 6,000 of the 20,000 units he announced.

This kind of year-by-year accounting reflects a lack of understanding of how supportive housing gets built. Supportive housing developers, investors and service providers need long-term funding commitments in order to plan safe, permanent housing for the most vulnerable New Yorkers. Without state-committed capital and operating subsidies, it is impossible to attract private investment for the acquisition of land and pre-development financing.

The most likely outcome of the governor’s actions is that little or no new housing will be created.

Evidence shows that providing supportive housing to homeless people is the most cost-effective and humane way to address our current crisis. Studies throughout the country show that supportive housing reduces hospitalizations, decreases incarceration rates, lowers the number of people admitted to detox and rehab programs, and reduces the number of people in homeless shelters. Moreover, placing homeless individuals in supportive housing in New York has been found to save $10,100 per year, per tenant.

Read the full op-ed at New York Slant.