In his annual address Wednesday, his third since taking office in 2022, Mayor Eric Adams touched on plans for a “Tenant Protection Cabinet,” developing affordable housing on two dozen city-owned sites, and issuing new NYCHA Section 8 vouchers. But several advocates said the speech fell short in addressing the city’s homelessness crisis.
In his annual State of the City address on Wednesday, Eric Adams marked the halfway point in his mayoral term by championing many of his administration’s existing initiatives and rolling out several new ones—including a few housing-related plans.
These include the launch of a “Tenant Protection Cabinet” to coordinate resources across various city agencies, developing affordable housing at two dozen city-owned sites and issuing new NYCHA Section 8 vouchers for the first time in years.
“Next to public safety, there is no greater anxiety for the average New Yorker than being priced out of their home or their neighborhood,” Adams told the crowd gathered in the auditorium at Hostos Community College in the Bronx Wednesday afternoon. “It is time for a powerful new housing agenda—one that acknowledges the need to build more housing is more important than preserving the old way of doing things.”
But several advocates said the speech fell short in addressing the true extent of the city’s homelessness crisis, with more than 147,000 people—including tens of thousands of recently arrived immigrants—in the shelter system as of November, the most recent month for which complete data is available.
Housing organizers and progressive lawmakers staged separate rallies this week to protest the administration’s policy of limiting immigrants’ shelter stays, and its refusal to implement City Council legislation to expand eligibility for CityFHEPS rental assistance vouchers on the grounds that it’s too costly.
“He actually mentioned a few times throughout his remarks, his initiatives and his commitment to keeping New Yorkers in their homes… but at the same time less than two weeks ago, has decided to not implement a package of laws that would keep people in their homes,” Jamie Powlovich, executive director at the Coalition for Homeless Youth, told City Limits following the mayor’s speech. “I think it’s just another example of him saying one thing and then doing another.”
In his remarks Wednesday, Adams reiterated a call for state lawmakers in Albany to enact policies that would make it easier for the city to build new housing, including a tax incentive for residential developers and regulations to ease office-to-apartment conversions.
He touted his administration’s City of Yes for Housing Opportunity proposal, a package of policy changes aimed at boosting development citywide that’s poised to undergo public review this spring. And Adams unveiled a new effort, called 24 in 24, which he said will construct or preserve 12,000 homes on 24 pieces of city-owned land.
Locations are expected to include the site of the Grand Concourse Branch library in the Bronx (in coordination with the New York Public Library), Hunters Point South in Long Island City, the intersection of Canal and Front streets on Staten Island’s North Shore, 388 Hudson St. in Lower Manhattan and along the 9th Avenue waterfront in Inwood. Each will have some percentage of affordable housing, a mayoral spokesperson said, but the specific number will depend on the project.
Rachel Fee, executive director at the New York Housing Conference, said the effort is a step in the right direction, but that the city needs more substantial development to fill its affordable housing shortage.
“To move the dial, we need City of Yes enacted. And we also need Albany to take on the city’s agenda and push it forward,” Fee said. “Without those kinds of changes, I think we’re sort of working around the edges there.”
Also in his address Wednesday, the mayor announced the formation of a “Tenant Protection Cabinet”—an effort to better connect the various city agencies that provide housing-related services.
Unlike the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants launched under former Mayor Bill de Blasio (and largely defunded last year, according to reporting by The Real Deal) it won’t be a standalone office with its own budget, a City Hall spokesperson explained, but coordination between existing tenant protection programs to “leverage resources” for efficiency. It’s modeled after a similar collaboration between the city agencies that provide services for older New Yorkers.
Adams also shared that the city will expand a program that assists homeowners, as well as reopen the waitlist for NYCHA Section 8 vouchers, which cover a portion of the rent for low- and moderate-income New Yorkers who qualify, for the first time in 15 years.
City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, currently at odds with the administration over its resistance to the CityFHEPS expansion and other bills around policing and jail reforms, called the Section 8 and 24 in 24 initiatives “important.”
“The Council looks forward to working collaboratively on these critical issues,” she said in a statement.
Adams’ State of the City touched minimally on the city’s fraying shelter system, in which new immigrant arrivals are now subject to 30- and 60-day limits—a policy the mayor casts as a fiscal necessity, but which critics have decried as inhumane.
“The Mayor used the word ‘homeless’ once—a reflection of having no meaningful plan to rapidly rehouse New Yorkers,” Jawanza Williams, director of organizing with the advocacy group VOCAL-NY, said in a statement following the speech.
In another statement, the New York Working Families Party described the housing elements of the mayor’s speech as “insufficient for people facing eviction and rent-hikes today.”
“If the Mayor wants to address housing pressures on working people, he can use his power to reverse the rent hikes on rent-regulated tenants, and press Governor Hochul to pass strong tenant protections this year,” the group’s co-directors, Ana María Archila and Jasmine Gripper, said.
To reach the reporter behind this story, contact Jeanmarie@citylimits.org.