Today’s Read: More Housing for the Homeless

With the number of men, women, and children sleeping in NYC shelters continuing to hover at record highs, City Council Members are joining to call for more permanent housing for homeless New Yorkers. Last week, hundreds of people marched to Gracie Mansion with the House Our Future NY campaign to demand that Mayor de Blasio set aside 10 percent of his 300,000-unit Housing New York 2.0 plan for homeless New Yorkers – 30,000 units, with 24,000 units to be created through new construction. The campaign, which Coalition for the Homeless launched earlier this year, has won endorsements from 60 partner organizations and 38 elected officials, while garnering significant media attention.

This week, Council Member Rafael Salamanca Jr. plans to introduce a bill that would require developers who receive City financial assistance to set aside a minimum of 15 percent of the development’s units for homeless New Yorkers. If passed, this legislation would be an important tool to help us reach the House Our Future NY goal of 30,000 units, with 24,000 of them to be newly constructed, by creating a higher minimum for homeless set-asides in developments. Furthermore, it reinforces that while the Mayor has resisted repeated pleas from homeless New Yorkers and advocates, dozens of Council Members and other elected officials have already recognized the urgent need to address homelessness through more permanent housing resources.

The Coalition and other members of the House Our Future NY campaign will join Council Member Salamanca at a press conference in support of this bill at 11 a.m. Wednesday morning on the steps of City Hall.

Jeffery C. Mays wrote about the new bill and the need for more permanent housing in The New York Times:

Rafael Salamanca Jr., a councilman from the Bronx, will introduce legislation on Wednesday that will mandate that any rental housing project that receives taxpayer subsidies — such as tax abatements, loans, tax credits or reduced-cost land — has to set aside 15 percent of its created or preserved units for people living in the city’s shelter system.

Mr. de Blasio’s current housing policy, Housing New York 2.0, calls for 5 percent of the 300,000 units to be set aside for the homeless, a total of 15,000 apartments. The mayor has said he is strongly against increasing the 5 percent set-aside.

But the City Council speaker, Corey Johnson, said he strongly supports the concept of Mr. Salamanca’s bill — an important sign that the legislation will be seriously considered by the 51-member body.

“I hope this sends a clear message to Mayor de Blasio that a homeless woman like me is not alone,” [Nathylin Flowers Adesegun], 72, said “and that there are elected officials in New York who are willing to fight for what’s right when the mayor refuses to do so.”

Mr. Salamanca represents the South Bronx, one of the poorest Council districts. Over the last year, he has worked with developers there on at least two affordable housing projects that increase to 15 percent the number of units set aside for the homeless, creating 48 units.

“We have an affordable housing crisis that continues to ravage the city and we need to do better at getting housing for our most vulnerable families, the homeless and the very low income,” Mr. Salamanca said in an interview. “The need to address the homelessness issue is so intense and dire that individuals are interrupting the mayor while he’s working out to ask him to do better.”

Mr. Johnson said that he “strongly supports” increasing the number of units set aside for the homeless.

“Homelessness is one of the biggest issues we are grappling with as a city, and we need an all-hands-on-deck approach toward solving it,” Mr. Johnson said.

Giselle Routhier, policy director of the Coalition for the Homeless, an advocacy group, said the city has focused too much on the social services side of homelessness and now should focus on housing development.

“If the city provides the subsidies, the developers will build,” Ms. Routhier said. “We are not asking for 100 percent of the housing plan to be for the homeless but we are asking for a proportion that is commensurate with the need.”