Today’s Read: Housing Cuts Would Exacerbate Inequality

The past several months have underscored the now-familiar mantra, “housing is health care.” As Coalition for the Homeless documented in our recent report, the age-adjusted mortality rate due to COVID-19 for homeless New Yorkers in shelters as of June 1st was 61 percent higher than the overall citywide rate. Even before the pandemic, New York City was in the midst of an affordable housing crisis that fueled record homelessness. Now, with many people out of work and the looming expiration of protections like eviction moratoria without government programs needed to provide adequate rental assistance, New York City is bracing for a surge in homelessness.

The economic fallout of the pandemic has also created a dire situation for City leaders as they negotiate the budget, which is due next week. However, Mayor de Blasio has proposed an entirely counterproductive and misguided 40-percent cut to the budget of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development – slashing the capital budget by $1 billion. The New York Housing Conference estimates that this cut, if enacted, could result in a loss of 21,000 affordable apartments, including 3,000 supportive apartments, in the next two years. Furthermore, this particular cut is shortsighted because it will not address the City’s financial challenges: The capital budget is funded with bonds paid back with debt service over many years, rather than current City revenue. The cost of disrupting the affordable housing pipeline far exceeds any small debt service savings. The letter opposing the cuts signed by Coalition for the Homeless, along with 162 other organizations and 14 elected officials, is here. Individuals can contact Mayor de Blasio and Council Members to oppose this cut here. To spread the word on social media, please use #NoCapitalCuts.

A graphic that reads: Mayor DeBlasio's Proposal: Slash Housing Preservation & Development Capital Budget by 40% this year and next; The Projected Results: 5,300 fewer affordable housing units constructed, 15,700 fewer affordable housing units preserved, 34,000+ jobs lost; 60,422 people will sleep in NYC shelters tonight. How many more?

Faced with a potential tidal wave of evictions and worsening homelessness, the City must expand its efforts to create more affordable and supportive housing, not reduce the housing budget in the name of austerity. In a Daily News op-ed, the leaders of the Supportive Housing Network of New York, the Corporation for Supportive Housing, the New York State Association for Affordable Housing, and the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development explain the urgent need to reverse these proposed cuts to the housing budget in order to combat inequality and racial injustice:

New Yorkers across the five boroughs are stepping up more than ever before to take action against systemic racial injustice — and we all know that housing is a central part of the equation. That’s why so many advocates are deeply concerned by New York City’s proposal to cut 40% of its capital housing budget, which will take much-needed affordable and supportive housing away from the low-income communities of color who need it most.

It’s no secret that black New Yorkers have historically made up an overwhelming share of our state’s homeless population; here in the city, nearly 70% of the 80,000 individuals experiencing homelessness at any given time are black.

These issues have only been heightened due to the pandemic. Nearly 2 million New Yorkers have filed for unemployment since April, and black New Yorkers have been hit hardest. It is inevitable that the already high percentage of families who will struggle to pay rent each month will only increase, even as we recover.

In other words, now is the time to redouble — not shrink — efforts to develop and preserve affordable and supportive housing. The need was tremendous before COVID, it is exponentially more so now.