CityViews: De Blasio has no Comprehensive Plan to Rehouse the Homeless

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Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

The de Blasio administration has moved record numbers of shelter residents into permanent housing, but the shelter census remains near record levels and the mayor’s plan to ‘turn the tide’ on homelessness does not foresee major reductions in the years ahead.

The lie began in 2014, when Bill de Blasio campaigned for Mayor on the platform of ending the “tale of two cities.” He said he would end inequality in our City. He said he would help the most vulnerable.

The lie continued in 2017 when he was reelected, and he said he would create the “fairest big city in America.”

Meanwhile, today we still have over 61,000 people living in shelters in New York City. The impacts of this cannot be understated: homeless people’s lives are endangered, their physical and mental health deteriorates, kids miss school, working people lose their jobs, and so much more. No one should ever have to face these spiraling circumstances.

Since he took office, Mayor de Blasio has continued to praise his administration for dealing with a homelessness crisis of record proportions. He’s made half-hearted attempts to deal with the immediate crisis of homelessness by issuing rental assistance vouchers that don’t cover average rents in our city. When people are able to find housing with these below-market rent vouchers, they are relegated to few far-flung neighborhoods where the housing is often in poor conditions. Seeing this lackluster attempt to help homeless people find housing, City Councilmember Steve Levin introduced a bill in January to raise voucher values to meet fair-market rent and to guarantee that voucher recipients continue to receive the assistance as long as they meet eligibility requirements.

But beyond providing New Yorkers with subpar vouchers to find housing, de Blasio has a bigger stain on his record when it comes to housing the homeless: his Housing New York 2.0 plan. Out of the 300,000 units of affordable housing in his plan, the mayor has committed only 15,000 units—five percent—for the homeless.

His defense of this utterly insufficient commitment is shameful. He’s been asked by homeless individuals, advocates, and reporters if he will increase his commitment from 15,000 units to 30,000 units of housing (with 24,000 units of new construction) to meet the desperate need of homeless people in our city. “No,” he answers, “our best hope going forward is the preventative efforts and the broader efforts to raise wages and benefits.”

“No” is not an acceptable answer. Preserving housing and slowing evictions won’t rehouse over 61,000 people; the creation of new shelters won’t rehouse over 61,000 people; a $15 minimum wage won’t rehouse over 61,000 people. In fact, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, in order to afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent, a person living in New York City would need to earn a $30 minimum wage for a 40-hour work week—that is double the $15 minimum wage that has not yet been phased in.

But the mayor is not claiming that any of these efforts will rehouse 61,000 people. That would be deceitful. What he’s telling us instead, unabashedly, is that he has no real plan to put people back in homes and that doing so is not his priority. If it was a priority, de Blasio would not be facing mounting pressure from homeless activists, advocates, and city officials to dedicate a modest 10 percent of his House New York 2.0 plan to house homeless people.

Why aren’t homeless New Yorkers a priority to the progressive mayor who campaigned on fairness? Why doesn’t he dedicate adequate resources to rehouse them? Whatever his reasoning is, we should not accept it. The most deserving New Yorkers are the ones that need the most support. Any progressive mayor, elected official, or living person should agree.


Paulette Soltani is the Housing Campaign Coordinator at VOCAL-NY, a grassroots organization that builds power among low-income people affected by homelessness, HIV/AIDS, drug use, and mass incarceration. On Twitter @VOCALNewYork.

6 thoughts on “CityViews: De Blasio has no Comprehensive Plan to Rehouse the Homeless

  1. So, do you have a plan? If you do, or any of your friends or other politicians do, Please come forward. Criticizing the mayor in this spread is cute for you but it doesn’t help the issue. An issue that if you know anything about NYC has been going on since the settlement houses. We are over populated and we will always be. So. What is your plan, genius? Since you criticize you better have a plan. Don’t tell me that you are not the mayor either, it wont go. So Ms. Soltani, what is your plan?

    • I think she’s pretty clear about her plan: Reserve more of the 300,000 units of housing the mayor is creating or preserving for the homeless. Read carefully and you’ll see it, Mr. Santiago.

    • The mayor SHOULD BE CRITICIZED, not the person who wrote this piece. She is not the elected officials who gets paid big bucks courtesy of the hard working tax payers. THIS IS HIS JOB, regardless, when the problem arose. Whoever is in charge at this time, all the issues not belong to you and in this case, deBlasio. Your average working class person has a job and it is NOT their job to come up with solutions to city government problems, it is those who are in charge. The person writing the article is NOT getting paid to solve the homeless fiasco (which by the way is BIG MONEY PROFITS), it is the elected officials voted into office. Always someone like you who make the elected officials and those in charge unaccountable and make regular folks the ones who have to come up with a plan.

      One BIG solution is to end the archaic right to shelter law in this city and state, which allows homeless people (who have no finances) from other states and countries to come to the most expensive city in the country, NYC and then the problem is on NYC to provide housing for them and the city of origin is off the hook or maybe you had no idea of the right to shelter law in NYC, which is long overdue to be changed.

  2. There is much more to the City’s lack of commitment to housing the Homeless. Less count on the developers who have contributed to much of the housing crisis and gentrification that has added to the housing and homeless crisis. Campaigning too much and allowing for two-fold contributors to add to the problem, i.e. Shelters and development of the luxury high rises have been ignored for far too long. The monstrous problem can be resolved if the people are willing to hold the real estate developers accountable. Oppose the permissible practice by demanding enforcement of low income or affordable housing placement. The selective process is being stymied by Non-profits such as breaking ground and other organizations utilizing preference policies that exclude the homeless population from being equally considered.

  3. Pingback: Homeless Activists Confront Mayor During His Morning Workout - BKLYNER

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