Today’s Read: Cuomo’s Big Speech is Short on Housing

It’s been one year since Governor Cuomo’s 2016 State of the State address, in which he announced a historic commitment to create 20,000 units of lifesaving supportive housing over 15 years. This anniversary is grim reminder for the tens of thousands of homeless New Yorkers that Gov. Cuomo has failed to follow through on that bold promise: The funds for the first 6,000 units were allocated in the budget passed in April, but State leaders only released a small fraction by the time the legislative session ended in June. The remainder of the money approved in the budget – nearly $1.9 billion – is sitting idle because Gov. Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan have yet to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) despite record homelessness and months of persistent advocacy by the Coalition and other members of the Campaign for NY/NY Housing.

This delay is unacceptable and unconscionable: Take action to help us reach our goal of sending 20,000 messages to Albany – one for every supportive housing unit promised – to urge the Governor and Legislature to fulfill the supportive housing commitment!

Joe Anuta of Crain’s called out Governor Cuomo for trying to abdicate responsibility for this failure during his 2017 State of the State address in NYC this week:

In last year’s edition of the speech, Cuomo outlined a $20 billion, five-year plan to build housing and combat homelessness. As part of that effort, he pledged $2 billion to build 100,000 affordable units plus 6,000 units of housing geared toward homeless New Yorkers. The money was put into the budget in April, but the governor and legislators never agreed on how to spend it. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) accord was supposed to take care of the details, but 2016 ended without one.

Cuomo on Monday placed the blame on the state Assembly and Senate. “We need it now. We need it in the winter. We need it in the cold,” he said from the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. “It is time for the state Legislature to act.”

The state in June released $150 million to build housing for the homeless. And in September, Cuomo signed his own version of an MOU and began to call on the Legislature to follow suit—something that was unlikely to happen, because neither Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie nor Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan had negotiated that agreement before it was presented by the governor.

“An MOU isn’t an MOU until it is agreed upon, and we have said all along it needs to get done quickly,” a spokesman for Heastie said in a statement.

In response to Gov. Cuomo’s using the first of his six State of the State speeches to pass the buck on his supportive housing promise, the Campaign 4 NY/NY Housing released a statement:

“What a difference a year makes. Last January, Governor Cuomo stood before the people of New York and promised to build 20,000 units of supportive housing for the homeless over 15 years. Then he signed a budget that would fund the first 6,000 units of this commitment, but only if he and the two legislative leaders signed a completely unnecessary memorandum of understanding. When that didn’t happen, he played politics with a legislative pay raise at the end of the year, dangling homelessness funds as part of his failed bid for special session. Now, with 88,000 homeless New Yorkers paying the price for his failed leadership, he has the audacity to point the finger at everyone but himself. If Governor Cuomo really wanted this done, it would be done. He doesn’t get to point to a press release he issued three months ago and wash his hands of this. He made a promise, now he needs to keep it. Homeless New Yorkers can’t afford another year of Andrew Cuomo’s political miscalculations and empty rhetoric. They just need him to keep his word.”

88,000 Homeless New Yorkers Are Still Waiting… from Campaign 4 NYNY Housing