Key Housing Group Looking Past the Budget

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New York Housing Conference executive director Rachel Fee.

City & State

New York Housing Conference executive director Rachel Fee.

It isn’t that housing policy fared badly in the state budget approved earlier this month, said Rachel Fee, the executive director of the New York Housing Conference. It’s that the money the governor and legislators earmarked for housing—while substantial—doesn’t match the scale of the problem.

“We ended up with a decent budget for affordable housing but given that there was $5.4 billion in bank settlement surplus and none went to affordable housing it feels a little disappointing,” Fee said in a video interview conducted by City Limits for City & State TV. “Given the extent of our affordability crisis, we would really like to see the state commit more.”

While nearly half a billion dollars from an earlier settlement with J.P. Morgan will be devoted to housing activities, the Conference and allies wanted $492 million more for a total of roughly $1 billion.

“That’s really the scale of impact we’re looking for from New York State.”

And it’s not just New York City that needs the help.

“The issues vary around the state. Of course, affordability is a real issue in New York City. Parts of Long Island and upstate countries are still really suffering from the foreclosure crisis. We have a need for supportive housing statewide,” she said, adding: “Senior housing is a great issue statewide that we could really use better public policy in addressing.”

Advocates had hoped for funding for 30,000 units of supportive housing in the city and 5,000 more elsewhere in the state. The budget provides a modest downpayment on those hopes, with enough money for 5,000 total units. But Fee—like other advocates—said the budget talks were just the start of an effort to get deeper state commitment to supportive housing.

“With 80,000 homeless statewide it’s not enough,” she said of the numbers coming out of the fiscal 2016 budget. “I think that we continue to push for a bigger agreement.”