Today’s Read: Delaying Supportive Housing Funding a Luxury New York’s Homeless Don’t Have

Supportive housing is proven to break the cycle of chronic homelessness by giving people the stability of a permanent home and the support services they need to thrive, while simultaneously saving taxpayer dollars. But, faced with record homelessness, State leaders continue to impose unnecessary obstacles that could jeopardize the creation of more desperately needed supportive units.

Governor Cuomo committed to develop 20,000 units of supportive housing over 15 years in his 2016 State of the State Address, and his 2016 executive budget included a five-year $2 billion housing and homelessness plan for the first 6,000 supportive units. However, at the end of the last legislative session in June, the Governor and legislative leaders only released $150 million for 1,200 units of supportive housing. The remainder of the $2 billion was subjected to a still-unresolved Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The State is now in its FY 2018 budget process, but there is nothing preventing this MOU from being signed now or any time before the new budget is enacted in April.

The Coalition and other members of the Campaign 4 NY/NY Housing have kept up the pressure over the past year by meeting with elected officials, presenting testimony, hosting more than two dozen weekly rallies outside Gov. Cuomo’s Manhattan office since July, and coordinating a phone call-in campaign last week. Despite these efforts, Governor Cuomo and the legislative leaders continue to needlessly delay the release of the promised funds – making a conscious choice to prioritize politics over the lives of the 88,000 homeless New Yorkers statewide.

Peter Cook, the executive director of the New York State Council of Churches, explained in a New York Slant op-ed that the uncertainty around the supportive housing funds has a dire impact on the overall financing of these important projects.

Cuomo has a proven track record of quickly closing deals to get what he wants. He knows that supportive housing cannot be built solely through annual appropriations. He should move now to get this memorandum signed immediately to release the promised $2 billion for supportive and affordable housing.

Studies throughout the country have repeatedly demonstrated that supportive housing pays for itself by reducing medical and psychiatric hospitalizations, detox and rehab programs, shelters and incarceration. In New York, placing homeless individuals in supportive housing has been found to save our government $10,100 per year, per tenant. Supportive housing developers, investors and service providers need long-term financing commitments for the future development of safe, permanent housing for the most vulnerable New Yorkers. Without long-term, state-committed capital and operating subsidies, it is impossible to attract private investment for the acquisition of land and predevelopment financing, which can together cost millions. This will have negative consequences for years to come.

In the past, New York/New York Agreements between New York City and New York State attracted investors because they diminished risk to developers by providing long-term commitments to fund a set number of units. The five-year memorandum that the governor promised is critical to creating the robust pipeline of supportive housing needed to address New York State’s homelessness crisis.