Mayor Adams Addresses the Issue of Affordable Housing and Works Towards Building More Affordable Housing. On June 14, 2022, Mayor Eric Adams released Housing Our Neighbors: A Blueprint for Housing and Homelessness, his administration’s plan to address New York City’s affordable housing crisis. The Blueprint discusses making the City a welcoming and homely place where people can stay and grow together as a family by creating housing that is available and affordable for people from all walks of life. The Blueprint speaks to five key housing pillars: (1) Transforming the New York City Housing Authority; (2) Addressing the Homelessness and Housing Instability; (3) Creating and Preserving Affordable Housing; (4) Improving the Health and Safety of New Yorkers; and (5) Reducing the Administrative Burden.
Transforming the New York City Housing Authority
The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), began implementing the Transformation Plan in 2021. The plan empowers local property management teams to address residents’ issues, leverages new partners to create a fund for residents’ benefit, allows resident voices to be heard in housing decisions, and invests in the health and safety of NYCHA residents by providing healthy food access and public safety.
Highlights from the plan include: passing a Work Order Reform to decrease total repair time, create a resident-focused scheduling system, and increase the scheduling efficiency, and gaining funding for projects through NYCHA Trust, air rights and federal funds. NYCHA also plans to improve janitorial schedules and implement a new model of waste collection to ensure that common areas and grounds are well-maintained and that residents are proud of their homes. Funding is the biggest issue for NYCHA, both in not having enough funds, funds being mismanaged, and it not being clear how funding will be used – the blueprint highlights transparency, getting more funding, and using that for repairs and renovations.
Rafael E. Cestero, CEO, Community Preservation Corporation and former HPD Commissioner stated, “With the major new funding for NYCHA being made available through the establishment of the Public Housing Trust, this plan represents significant progress toward improving housing for millions of New Yorkers.”
Addressing the Homelessness and Housing Instability
The Adams administration plans to implement a new system for tracking and measuring homelessness to provide more people with housing stability. New York has an estimated 91,271 cases of homelessness, many of whom are New Yorkers, immigrants, migrants, refugees, or asylum-seekers. And many people who do have homes, are at risk of becoming homeless for reasons including: financial difficulties like not receiving sufficient public assistance shelter allowance, unsafe housing conditions, tenant harassment, being subject to violence, and emergency or hazardous conditions. The Adams administration plans to develop strategies to increase access to information, resources, public assistance and services, and safe, affordable, permanent housing for all New York residents and homeless people.
One such strategy is by implementing a new system, that will include all five shelter systems to determine the exact state of NYC homelessness so that the City could provide more consistent and reliable means of measuring progress of dealing with homelessness. In conjunction, the Adam Administration will allow those people who have been in shelters and experienced homelessness to identify where the systems have worked and where they fell short.
Chief Housing Officer Jessica Katz stated, “By including NYCHA and homelessness for the first time ever, we are elevating directly impacted New Yorkers into the heart of our housing strategies to ensure that everyone finally receives the safe, stable, and affordable housing they and their families deserve.” For those within shelter systems, the administration will work to improve their health and well-being by expanding the shelter and services providing to meet the residents’ needs, because being healthy makes it easier to get and retain a home.
Creating and Preserving Affordable Housing
The Adams Administration addresses many issues that come with creating new affordable housing including: construction and maintenance costs, removing unnecessary bureaucratic barriers to housing development, increasing the unit sizes and housing types by expanding the zoning and housing regulations, and increasing federal resources to implement affordable housing changes. With more New Yorkers wanting to live alone, the administration plans to build more studios and one-bedroom units.
The plan identifies creating more Accessory Dwelling Units and converting vacant hotels to affordable housing. The administration also discusses increasing housing in transit-rich neighborhoods, redeveloping underutilized government owned land, creating more housing for elderly and disabled people, providing federal assistance to very-low and extremely-low income New Yorkers, helping owners of low-cost, affordable housing to stabilize the physical and financial conditions of their buildings, increasing opportunities for affordable homeownership, and promoting housing stability for renters. The administration also plans to create new childcare centers on the ground floor of affordable housing to ensure that commercial and community facilities are improving New Yorker’s quality of life.
City Planning Commission Chair and Department of City Planning Director Dan Garodnick stated, “The mayor’s housing plan is laser-focused on meeting the urgent housing needs of New Yorkers — young families, single adults, seniors, everyone… let’s [b]ring new homes at all income levels to all of our communities.”
Improving the Health and Safety of New Yorkers
The Adams administration plans to enforce certain measures to decrease lead exposure and asthma cases in underserved communities. Many low-income communities and communities of color suffer from various maintenance deficiencies like rodent and or pest infestations, leaks, mold, inadequate heat and air-conditioning, lead paint, the lack of fire safety measures, among others, leading to health deficiencies such as asthma and lead exposure. Poor housing conditions can also become very dangerous during climate changes such as unbearable heat or cold, hurricanes, and floods in basements. Approximately 43% of NYCHA residents and 27% of residents in rental housing reported three or more maintenance deficiencies in their homes. The Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) will work with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) and the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) to proactively inspect questionable buildings even where no complaints were filed and to require property owners to implement Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
FDNY Acting Commissioner Laura Kavanagh stated, “[We will] do our part to ensure that new, safe housing is created for New Yorkers.” The Adams administration also plans to make the electrification of buildings and homes affordable and accessible for all New Yorkers, regardless of financial capabilities to promote healthier living conditions and greater thermal comfort.
Reducing the Administrative Burden
The Adams administration plans to implement near-term and long-term fixes to assist New Yorkers on their road to getting affordable housing. Such fixes include: eliminating the Absent Parent Form in applying for Section 8 housing to reduce administrative burden, stress, and trauma for households, and digitizing aspects of the Section 8 application for housing. New Yorkers looking for supportive housing often are required to provide basic information about their mental health – the administration plans to eliminate the need for clinical evaluation where other avenues exist to obtaining such information. The Adams administration will also keep tabs on the impact that the housing investments has on residents and evaluate whether the regulations and processes behind applying for the different programs relating to housing are unnecessarily burdensome and possible to simplify or change. New York State Assemblymember Latrice Walker stated, “[I] applaud the elimination of unnecessary paperwork that creates delays connecting people to housing.”
By: Malka Amar (Malka is a CityLaw intern and New York Law School student, Class of 2023.)