By Julia Stern
New York City, New York
Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would restore $466 million to the housing capital budget in order to give the city affordable housing, yet the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) is still lacking funds as the city grapples with the effects of COVID-19. In June, de Blasio’s administration removed $583 million from the HPD’s capital commitment plan for 2020 and $457 million for 2021, according to the New York Independent Budget Office. $1 billion in capital reductions would have cost 21,000 affordable apartments, per The Real Deal.
In a year when housing insecurity and homelessness have increased exponentially, these budget cuts would have led to fewer investments into affordable housing when it is sorely needed. According to the Citizens’ Committee for Children (CCC), New York is on the brink of an eviction crisis that could lead thousands of New Yorkers––mostly women and children of color––to experience homelessness at even higher rates. Of NY Metro Area renters with children, 32% did not pay rent from April-July 2020, and 66% of low-income renters with children reported little to no confidence in making their next rental payments on time. In recent years, homelessness in New York City reached its highest levels since the Great Depression, according to the Coalition for the Homeless, and the primary cause of homelessness is lack of affordable housing.
The renewed funding for the HPD could help create 11,000 new units of affordable housing and provide jobs that could generate $3.6 million in local economic activity, City Limits reported.
Restoring these funds could also help de Blasio’s criticized but ambitious plans for affordable housing. In 2017, de Blasio announced his plan to finance 300,000 affordable homes by 2026, and so far the city has created 166,000 affordable homes. De Blasio has faced criticism for neglecting low-income families and rezoning low-income neighborhoods. In 2018, only 10% of apartments were newly constructed for people making below median income. In many neighborhoods rezoned for this housing, the “affordable” apartments were too expensive for most residents to rent.
To combat this criticism, de Blasio released the “Where We Live NYC” housing equity plan that aimed to rezone high-income areas for more apartments, lift housing restrictions on formerly incarcerated people and continuing laws against housing discrimination. The plan would be far more effective with sufficient funding to back it, the Gothamist reported.
While it is significant that the de Blasio administration backtracked on its budget cuts, many advocates hope that all of last year’s cuts to affordable housing will be reinvested to adequately support New Yorkers experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity.