Improve Access to Affordable and Supportive Housing
READ THE REPORT
Nowhere is the need for interagency coordination more apparent than in addressing the homelessness crisis. Homelessness has long been treated as an issue that can be managed by the Department of Social Services, rather than an issue that can be solved through housing. What has resulted is an inflated DSS budget for shelters and an HPD budget that dedicates little housing for the homeless. Accordingly, the need for affordable and supportive housing has dramatically outpaced availability. Between 2014-2018, HPD placed an average of only 478 households per year into its set-aside units.16 Homelessness has continued to increase for single adults, surpassing over 20,000 in New York City shelters in October 202.17 Meanwhile, over 170,000 households are on the NYCHA waitlist18, and since 2013, the City has received over 25 million applications for 40,000 income-restricted units through Housing Connect.
The main path the City provides out of the shelter system is vouchers, but their value consistently falls short of the rents in available apartment.20 Most voucher holders are either Black or Latinx, and the City itself reports that many voucher holders have experienced discrimination that pre- vented them from using their vouchers. Where We Live notes a number of circumstances where interagency coordination could be strengthened to combat housing discrimination, including in regard to enforcement of complaints, maintenance of housing quality, and streamlining of rental assistance programs.
The north star of the Integrated Housing Plan must be ending homelessness. It must prioritize an interagency approach that streamlines the process for finding and securing affordable and supportive housing options, as well as promoting fair housing.
Priority 3: Improve Access to Affordable and Supportive Housing
- Fully Fund the Commission on Human Rights to enforce discrimination violations and provide fair housing counseling. Ensure coordination between CCHR, DSS (particularly the Source of Income Unit), and HPD to punish landlords who discriminate, including based on source-of-income.
- Provide education to all housing specialists, case managers, and Housing Ambassadors, and to tenants receiving vouchers, about voucher holders’ rights and how to make complaints.
- Increase CityFHEPS subsidy value to Fair Market Rent (FMR) to provide more options for voucher holders. The City Council can do this right away by passing Intro 146-2018.
- Ensure that eligibility for CityFHEPS is not tied to stay in shelter and that these vouchers have no time limit for renewal.
- Increase funding for programs that prevent evictions, such as City Council’s Anti- Eviction Legal Services initiative and HRA’s emergency rental assistance and Homebase programs. Anyone who goes to housing court should have access to the anti-eviction services provided through Homebase.
- Streamline supportive housing screening, application, and placement for homeless New Yorkers on the streets and in shelters, with an emphasis on low-barrier and Housing First standards. The process of applying for and obtaining supportive housing is too complex and burdensome on applicants, often leaving people who would be eligible for supportive housing in shelter or on the streets for years.22
- Create a rapid rehousing system to end homelessness. Expand upon the model that reduced veteran street homelessness by 98% since 2011 through interagency coordination on increased rental assistance, expanded case management, and outreach to landlords.23
- Allow local emergency placements. Housing Connect currently prohibits local, mission-driven property owners from rehousing displaced tenants in emergency situations (such as those displaced by fire or harassment) quickly and locally within their portfolios. The City should create an exemption to ensure these tenants can secure safe and affordable housing in their neighborhood.
- Expand need-based priorities on the NYCHA wait list. Make more units available to those experiencing homelessness, and create a preference for placement for those at risk of homelessness (including those in overcrowded or three-quarter housing, those who have recently experienced homelessness, and the formerly incarcerated).
- Create a need-based priority for the Housing Connect lottery. Prioritize those at risk of homelessness (including those in overcrowded or three-quarter housing, those who have recently experienced homelessness, and the formerly incarcerated) for HPD’s lottery units and turnover units (separate from the existing set-asides for placements from the shelter system).
- Streamline voucher applications and Housing Connect. HPD and DHS should better coordinate options for those seeking affordable housing. Housing Connect should include information about accessing assistance for those who qualify. Conversely, those experiencing homelessness who have been awarded CityFHEPS should be automatically registered to use Housing Connect and entered in available housing lotteries.
- Provide adequate funding for supportive services in affordable housing, especially for senior housing and supportive housing for the formerly homeless.
- Fund and train more Housing Ambassadors. This program contracts with local, mission-driven organizations to help New Yorkers, including those in shelters, find and apply for affordable housing opportunities.