City has ‘floundered’ on combating homelessness: report


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The number of people staying in shelters each night is big enough to be New York’s ninth-largest city

Mayor Bill de Blasio must direct the city’s housing agencies to immediately build 24,000 new units of deeply subsidized, low-income housing, according to a blistering report scrutinizing city and state efforts to combat New York City’s historic levels of displacement.

Fueled by a dire affordable housing crisis, New York City’s homeless population hit a record-breaking peak in January with nearly 64,000 men, women, and children sleeping in shelters each night. That figure is expected to increase by 5,000 people come 2022—7,500 more than the de Blasio administration projected when developing a plan to tackle the issue in 2017, according to a new report by the Coalition for the Homeless.

The annual report, which was released on Tuesday, says the city’s homeless population will balloon unless swift steps are taken to create a surge of new low-income apartments for disenfranchised New Yorkers. Homeless advocates offered a fierce critique of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Turning the Tide on Homelessness” initiative, a five-year plan that seeks to shutter all privately-owned city shelter units—often referred to as cluster sites—and replace them with 90 new shelters, as “embarrassingly unambitious” with a goal of reducing the shelter population by only 2,500 between 2017 and 2022.

“Mayor de Blasio’s hollow plan to address the crisis, Turning the Tide on Homelessness, has floundered, failing entirely to live up to its title,” the report states. “This is an utterly unacceptable outcome given the human and financial impact of mass homelessness in our city.”

De Blasio earned a F for what the report says is his administration’s inability to pump out more sorely needed housing. He also received poor grades in the handling of homeless children and students, shelter conditions, and meeting the city’s need for shelters. The only bright spot on the city’s scorecard was an A- for its preventive efforts to keep New Yorkers in their homes.

Recent efforts by the city to create apartments for homeless New Yorkers have come under scrutiny with Comptroller Scott Stringer subpoenaing the mayor’s office for records on why the city paid $173 million—above the independently-appraised value of $143.1 million—for 17 apartment buildings in the Bronx and Brooklyn from notorious developers Stuart and Jay Podolsky. The recent deal is set to convert 468 cluster apartments into permanent affordable housing for homeless families.

The de Blasio administration pushed back on the Coalition for the Homeless’s biting assessment of the city’s efforts, citing the city’s creation of 10,261 apartments for the homeless in recent years and says it is in the midst of “implementing the most aggressive affordable housing plan in New York City history.”

“More than 109,000 New Yorkers have received rehousing assistance to move out of or avoid shelter and we have financed over 10,200 homes for homeless New Yorkers,” said mayoral spokesperson Jane Meyer. “The shelter census is flat for the first time in a decade and we will continue to use every tool at our disposal including cluster conversions to ensure all New Yorkers have a safe, affordable permanent home.”

Meanwhile, the report hit Gov. Andrew Cuomo with failing grades for his administration’s performance on housing vouchers, homelessness prevention, and budgeting practices that have shifted the financial burden of the increased costs of operating shelters almost entirely on the city. A spokesperson for Cuomo stressed that the state is taking a big-picture approach to combatting homelessness in the city.

“We know it’s the job of advocates to put their best case forward, but let’s be intellectually honest,” Rich Azzopardi, a senior advisor to Governor Cuomo, said in a statement. “Fighting homelessness requires a holistic approach; that’s why we are raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, expanding access to health care, spending $200 million a year to combat addiction the breaks apart so many families and are cracking down on source of income discrimination. That’s in addition to our $20 billion affordable housing plan, which is creating or preserving 100,000 affordable homes and 6,000 units with supportive services.”

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