Plan moves forward to convert 14 more cluster sites into housing for 200 homeless families

Posted On Wed, November 20, 2019 By

Posted On Wed, November 20, 2019 By In affordable housing, Policy

Image by Nick Normal via Flickr

In 2017, the de Blasio administration announced a five-year “Turning the Tide on Homelessness” plan to convert hundreds of cluster apartments, occupied by homeless families across the city, into permanently affordable units. Earlier this year, the City was able to complete the first phase of that plan by financing not-for-profit developers to acquire 17 buildings, rehabilitate them, and turn them into permanent affordable housing. Now the administration is moving forward with a second phase that will convert 14 more “cluster site” buildings. The first phase created housing for roughly 450 homeless families and the second phase is expected to aid another 200 families.

As 6sqft previously reported, “cluster or scatter-site housing are typically private apartments in buildings in which landlords rent out to the city to house homeless people.” Reports of unsafe conditions in cluster housing—including a 2016 incident in which two Bronx toddlers were killed due to a radiator valve malfunction—brought increased scrutiny to the Giuliani-era program.

The city’s number of cluster apartments reached its highest point in January 2016 when there were about 3,650 units. Since then, the City’s Department of Homeless Services has reduced citywide use of cluster apartments to shelter homeless families by more than 60 percent using multiple strategies, including outright closure, transitioning to alternative uses, and conversion to permanent housing. When this latest phase of the plan is complete, there will be approximately 1,175 cluster units remaining, signaling a 67 percent reduction from 2016’s record high.

“We’re making good on our promise to transform the shelter system and create more, high-quality permanent housing for New Yorkers in need,” de Blasio said. “With these conversions, over 200 families will have homes of their own, setting them on a path to lasting stability for generations to come.”

As part of the program, the de Blasio administration will use public financing to help credible nonprofit organizations buy apartments occupied by homeless New Yorkers and rehabilitate them with the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. The nonprofits must agree to keep units affordable for 30 years.

“The shamefully mismanaged ‘cluster site’ housing program has failed to live up to its promises, providing substandard housing for some of New York’s most vulnerable for too long,” said Assembly Member Al Taylor. “To address New York’s homelessness crisis we need safe, long term solutions that promote stability and treat people with dignity.”

“There is no one-stop solution for our city’s homeless crisis, but I am hopeful that this push will help to address both the loss of affordable apartments citywide and the unacceptable conditions homeless families have been living in,” added Stephen Levin, City Council member and Chair of the General Welfare Committee. “We need long term and innovative solutions if we are serious about reducing our homeless population.”

As amNY recently reported, the city’s homeless population over the past few years has been estimated to be around 60,000 to 73,000.

Governor Cuomo also announced this week that $56.5 million in state funding would be committed for 600 units of permanent supportive housing for veterans, the mentally ill and survivors of domestic violence.

“This funding will help provide some of our most vulnerable residents with a safe, stable place to live with access to the support services they need,” Cuomo said in a statement. “These projects are one more step towards ensuring all New Yorkers have access to affordable housing in their communities.”

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