Rendering via Think Architecture and Design
Facing an unprecedented homelessness problem, in February, Mayor de Blasio announced plans to open 90 new shelters and expand 30 existing ones. But when it came down to which neighborhoods would house the developments, it became a not-in-my-backyard issue, especially in Crown Heights, an area already heavy with shelters and transitional houses, where the Mayor said three of the first five projects would be built. The animosity intensified shortly thereafter when it was announced that one such shelter would open in a new building at 267 Rogers Avenue, originally planned as a condo. But despite opposition from local residents and a temporary restraining order, the building began welcoming tenants over the summer, with space for 132 homeless families and another 33 units reserved for low-income New Yorkers. The latter, set aside for those earning 60 percent of the area median income, are now available through the city’s affordable housing lottery and range from $931/month one-bedrooms to $1,292/month three-bedrooms.
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In February Mayor de Blasio announced that he plans to open 90 new homeless shelters, but during this same month, only 38 percent of families seeking shelter through the Department of Homeless Services were approved, reports the Daily News. This is a 50 percent drop from the same time last year, which comes after the agency’s Commissioner, Steven Banks, received approval from the state in November to require families seeking shelter to present “clear, convincing and credible evidence” that they absolutely have nowhere else to go.
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The exact details of the mayor’s proposal, to be announced Tuesday afternoon, are not yet known, but the focus will undoubtedly be the mayor’s ongoing battle to significantly beef up the city’s overwhelmed shelter system, according to the New York Times. New York–along with Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C,– has experienced an increase in homelessness in recent years, though the number of homeless people has declined nationwide. The city’s shelter infrastructure is over capacity to the point that, as 6sqft previously reported, around $400,000 a day is being spent on using hotel rooms as temporary shelters. Homelessness is one of the mayor’s thorniest problems; the proposal will reportedly increase the number of shelters throughout the city by nearly one third.
Why the opposition?
Back in November, the Wall Street Journal reported that Mayor de Blasio had spent a record $1.6 billion on homeless services since taking office three years prior, a 60 percent increase that came with 20 percent more New Yorkers in city shelters. Now, as shared by the Post, Comptroller Scott Stringer says that homeless spending will reach a whopping $2.3 billion when this fiscal year ends on June 30th, almost twice the $1.2 billion spent three years ago. “We have to pause and ask ourselves, are we seeing results?” he said.
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Though Mayor de Blasio said early last year that he would phase out the process of using hotel rooms to fill the gaps in supporting the city’s growing homeless population “as quickly as possible,” a new request from the Department of Homeless Services would extend the practice for up to nine years. The Post reports that the agency’s proposal is in response to the record 60,686+ New Yorkers in shelters, and they’re asking for vendors to supply “emergency shelter social services in commercial hotels.”
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Less than a week after the city announced that they’ll be increasing the number of commercial hotel rooms housing homeless families and individuals by more than 500, a report from Comptroller Scott Stringer puts the average cost a night citywide for the current batch at $400,000, according to the Daily News. The report, which is being released today, says that since November 2015, the city booked a total of 425,000 hotel rooms, costing more than $72.9 million. As of last month, there were 5,881 homeless New Yorkers staying in hotels, with the average nightly bill climbing from $163 to $194 over the past year.
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As he readies himself for reelection this coming year, Mayor de Blasio is looking to address the city’s surging homeless population. Just this week, the city reported a record 60,686 New Yorkers in shelters, nearly 40 percent of whom are children. This number was closer to 51,470 when de Blasio took office in 2014, and despite the $1.6 billion he’s spent on homeless services since this time (a 60 percent increase), the shelter system still can’t support the growing population. Therefore, as the Times explains, he’s looking to ramp up a controversial initiative that uses hotel rooms to fill in the gaps, earmarking more than 500 additional rooms for this portfolio.
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New Yorkers may be thick-skinned, but the majority are extremely vulnerable — in the financial sense of becoming homeless if they even briefly lose their livelihood, a new report asserts. Over 58 percent of New Yorkers do not have emergency savings to cover such basic expenses as rent or food for three months if they were to lose their jobs, have an accident, a health crisis or legal issue, according to data compiled by the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development. Thus more than half of the city is vulnerable to eviction, foreclosure, damaged credit and destabilized households, the nonprofit group determined.
READ MORE AT METRO NEW YORK…
555Ten, an Extell building that would be affected by the 421-a changes
As 6sqft reported last week, Governor Cuomo, developers, and unions have been engaging in closed-door talks to bring forth his revision of the city’s 421-a program that includes wage subsidies and an extension of the previous 25-year tax break up to 45 years. Glaringly (but not surprisingly) absent from the negotiations is Mayor de Blasio, but he’s now taking matters into his own hands, at least when it comes to those under-construction buildings that got in to the program before it expired in January. According to the Times, the de Blasio administration introduced a new policy that says these projects must include housing for some of the 60,000 New Yorkers currently living in homeless shelters, but developers, particularly Extell’s Gary Barnett, are not happy about the changes.
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, Mon, September 21, 2015
Image via Wiki Commons
Today, proponents of building more supportive housing will meet with the de Blasio administration to convince them that New York is in dire need of 35,000 new housing units statewide—and both the state and city should fund it. Currently, there are over 80,000 individuals without homes, including a number here in the city who are employed but still have salaries too small to afford NYC’s skyrocketing rents. While there has been plenty of talk about how the issue needs remedying, action has yet to be taken. In an op-ed written this morning for Crain’s, Enterprise Community Partners‘ Judi Kende sounds off on why, though we may think that building all these homes is way too expensive, ignoring the problem will cost us more financially in the long run.
More on what she said here