Today’s Read: How New York’s Housing Crunch Has Fueled Homelessness

New Yorkers are all too familiar with the citywide housing affordability crisis: With more than half of renters shelling out over 30 percent of their income toward housing, countless families and individuals live precariously close to falling behind on rent. If they are evicted, the chances of finding a truly affordable apartment in the city’s tight housing market are slim. The heartbreaking result is that thousands of those men, women and children are left with nowhere to turn but a homeless shelter system that is already bursting at the seams.

Faced with a housing market that relentlessly pushes more and more low-income New Yorkers into shelters, it is imperative that elected leaders embrace housing-based solutions to tackle the interlinked crises of affordability and homelessness.

In addition to building more housing affordable to those with the lowest incomes, the City should make full use of its existing affordable housing resources by increasing the number of NYCHA public housing and HPD units allocated to homeless New Yorkers. The City should also help prevent homelessness in the first place by passing Intro 214-a to establish a right to counsel in housing court for low-income New Yorkers, which would level the playing field for tenants who rarely have access to legal representation.

At the same time, the State should adopt Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi’s Home Stability Support proposal to bridge the difference between rents and the woefully insufficient shelter allowance for public assistance households facing eviction, homelessness, or loss of housing due to domestic violence or hazardous conditions. And, Governor Cuomo and State legislative leaders must immediately sign the memorandum of understanding to release nearly $2 billion for affordable and supportive housing that has been needlessly delayed for months.

Joseph Wade explained the connection between the affordable housing crisis and record homelessness in an article for CNBC:

According to a recent Housing and Vacancy Survey from the Census Bureau, 56 percent of city households qualify as rent burdened with more than 30 percent of their income going to rent and utilities. Of rent-burdened New Yorkers, the subset of extremely rent burdened pay more than 50 percent of their income toward rent and utilities. Nearly 3 out of every 10 rent-burdened New Yorkers fall into that category.

The problem is also largely economic, with city wages shrinking and slack in the city’s labor market — where unemployment hovers above the national rate at 5.1 percent. It all makes the nexus between homelessness and a lack of affordable housing more acute, experts say.

“Things are so tight, and people are so marginally stable in their month-to-month tenancies and their doubled-up situations,” Shelly Nortz, deputy executive director for policy at the Coalition for the Homeless, told CNBC in a recent interview.

“Housing is maxed out, Section 8 [public rent vouchers] funds have a massive waiting list with more people on the edge of homelessness, and the cost of securing an apartment has increased dramatically,” Nortz said.