Today’s Read: de Blasio Can Fulfill his Progressive Promise by Retooling his Housing Plan

Mayor de Blasio came into office nearly five years ago with a pledge to end the “tale of two cities” by tackling poverty and inequality. But with a near-record 61,697 New Yorkers sleeping in homeless shelters each night – and thousands more bedding down on our streets – it’s clear that much more must be done to fulfill that promise. The Coalition for the Homeless has been leading the House Our Future NY campaign, which calls on Mayor de Blasio to increase the number of permanent affordable housing units set aside for homeless New Yorkers to a level that will actually begin to address our city’s homelessness crisis. We are urging the Mayor to designate 30,000 apartments for homeless households (10 percent of his Housing New York 2.0 plan), with 24,000 of those units created through new construction. If you haven’t already done so, please sign our petition!

We’ve already hosted a successful Kids’ March, won the support of elected officials and 57 other organizations, and caught the attention of the media. This week, Giselle Routhier, the Coalition’s Policy Director, co-authored an op-ed in City Limits with Hunger Free America CEO Joel Berg about the urgent need for the House Our Future NY campaign to alleviate homelessness and food insecurity:

Landlords typically require that tenants have gross incomes that are at least 40 times the monthly rent, but that target is obviously far easier to reach for wealthy rather than working class families. While there is a vacancy rate of nearly 9 percent for apartments affordable to households earning $200,000 yearly, for those earning the median income, the rental vacancy rate for housing they can afford is less than 3 percent. For those who earn even less – the 670,000 extremely low-income households in our city who need a place renting for less than $800 per month – the vacancy rate has plummeted to just 1.2 percent.

New York rents have been skyrocketing for decades, far faster than the overall rate of inflation, and the median monthly rent is now $3,355 in Manhattan, $2,841 in Brooklyn, and $2,819 in Queens. Even in the lowest-rent neighborhoods of the city – all in the Bronx – rents are often $1,500 – $1,600 per month. The “rent is too damn high” is not just a cathartic rallying cry. It is a reality that fuels the twin crises of homelessness and food insecurity in our city.

The most effective step – by far – that the city can take to reduce hunger and homelessness is to make more deeply subsidized affordable housing available, especially for those currently without homes. The goal of Mayor de Blasio’s Housing New York 2.0 plan is to create or preserve 300,000 affordable units by 2026, with only five percent of those units set-aide for homeless families. But if the mayor’s plan is to even come close to addressing the actual need in our city, that figure must be doubled to ten percent, or 30,000 units. Moreover, 24,000 of those units should be created through new construction to increase the supply of available apartments for homeless New Yorkers.

While about half the city’s households earn less than $42,000 per year, only 25 percent of the housing units set-aide in the city’s plan are for families in this bracket. At least half the housing should be set-side for such struggling working families on top of the homeless set-aside units.

Read the full op-ed here.