City to Acquire and Convert Nearly 500 Cluster Units into Affordable Housing

Mayor Bill de Blasio. Image Credit: Benjamin Kanter/Mayoral Photo Office.

The new affordable housing is part of the de Blasio Administration’s efforts to end cluster site program. On December 4, 2018, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the progress made by the City for the acquisition and conversion of nearly 500 cluster units across 17 buildings into permanently affordable housing. The City’s plan is part of the administration’s initiative to address the homelessness crisis in New York City and is projected to provide housing for over 1,000 New Yorkers.

In a 20-year span, from 1994 to 2014, homelessness increased by 115 percent in New York City, and grew by almost 40 percent in three years between 2011 and 2014. A cluster site program has been used by the City for the last 18 years to help provide shelter for homeless families. In February 2017, the de Blasio Administration announced its commitment to ending this practice through its Turning the Tide on Homelessness in New York City plan, a borough-by-borough plan for addressing the challenge of homelessness. This plan includes reimagining the shelter strategy by removing people from all cluster apartment units and hotel facilities by the end of 2021. In January 2016, the City was managing 3,650 cluster units to shelter homeless families and have reduced the number of cluster use by more than 50 percent. The conversion of the nearly 500 units will leave approximately 1,400 cluster units remaining, which the City will phase out entirely by 2021.

In 2017, the City announced its intention to acquire cluster buildings through locally-based not-for-profit developers. The developers will work with Housing Preservation and Development to rehabilitate and preserve the buildings as affordable housing. HPD will enter into regulatory agreements with the new owners to ensure long-term affordability for housing for homeless families and low-income New Yorkers.

The 17 cluster buildings will be designated for conversion to permanent housing and contain a total of 468 units. Homeless families will be provided services and support from non-profit providers to help them get back on their feet and transition to living independently. Joint Ownership Entity NYC and Neighborhood Restore will acquire the buildings and work with local non-profit organizations to stabilize and manage the buildings, coordinate light-touch social services, and prepare for rehabilitation of the buildings in the near future.

“Homeless families have for decades been haphazardly sheltered in temporary accommodations that are too often poorly maintained and disconnected from services,” said Mayor de Blasio. “We’re converting these buildings into higher quality, permanent affordable housing for formerly homeless New Yorkers turning their lives around.”

“Today’s unprecedented announcement means nearly five hundred families will soon wake up in homes of their own,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio. “Addressing housing instability strengthens the fabric of families and communities citywide—and this initiative represents our Administration’s unwavering dedication to ensuring that our families and children thrive.”

“Transforming a haphazard shelter system decades in the making demands bold action ensuring we do right by our families in need. Today’s announcement furthers our commitment to closing the 18-year-old cluster program once and for all while creating permanent affordable housing for hundreds of homeless families for the long-term,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. “Working in partnership with HPD, not-for-profit developers, and service provider partners, we’re using every tool at our disposal to deliver the services, supports, and opportunities for success that hardworking New Yorkers deserve as they get back on their feet—and stay tuned for more to come.”


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