From Shelter to Affordable Housing: A GREAT FIRST STEP!

Jeff Foreman, Director of Policy

NYC’s New Rental Programs to Transition Families Experiencing Homelessness

Last year Bill de Blasio famously campaigned successfully to become Mayor of New York City on the “Tale of Two Cities.” He spoke about the tragedy of low income people unable to get by or even find barely affordable housing in the U.S.’s biggest city. He promised, and along with City Council is now delivering, programs created to provide affordable housing and to address the expanding crisis of homelessness in our city.

In addition to more and better programs to prevent evictions and homelessness (the best solution to homelessness is always prevention), the City has launched programs including priority targeting of a small number of NYCHA public housing units to families in the city homeless shelter system and three rental programs to provide partial subsidies to a modest number of homeless families in city homeless or domestic violence shelters if they can find a low rent apartment to accept the subsidy. Of course we wish each of the programs could be larger and open to more people, but we are grateful and celebrate these great first steps.

One concern we do have, and no doubt city policymakers share, is the difficulty many of the eligible and chosen families now in shelter will have in finding an appropriate and affordable housing unit even with the city’s subsidy “certificate.” The way it work is those who get the certificate letter have 90 days to use it to find housing.

But there still won’t be enough units to go around. Too many families experiencing homelessness and in shelter will find even with their certificate they may still be unable to obtain housing. A recent Community Services Society study found a need (demand) for well over a million units affordable to people with incomes below 200% of poverty, but a supply of only 609,700 units and falling.

We see and live this problem every day because Care for the Homeless serves dozens of people experiencing homelessness every day who are desperately seeking housing and cannot find it. That’s one reason the average length of stay at city homeless shelters is now over 14 months.

It’s also a reason Care for the Homeless continues to advocate for programs to adequately serve homeless people, tools to help people move from shelter to permanent housing and a greater supply of housing affordable to extremely low income families and individuals so those tools can work effectively.  

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