Adams housing plan cuts red tape for homeless New Yorkers seeking to leave shelters

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Mayor Eric Adams has released a housing plan for his administration Tuesday, aiming to improve efficiencies in public housing, make it easier for homeless New Yorkers to access housing and increase homeownership across the boroughs.

The plan, titled “Housing Our Neighbors,” comes as rental costs continue to grow across the city, leading to record numbers of rent-burdened families and as the amount of families in the shelter system rises.

In a departure from earlier administrations’ housing efforts, the plan does not include targets for constructing or preserving housing units, or a deadline for providing housing for people living in shelters or on the street. Adams framed the approach as sidestepping idealistic but impractical goal setting.

“As many people as possible,” Adams said at a news conference announcing the plan, in response to a question about the plan’s goals for housing. “I’m not playing these numbers. Everybody needs to find housing.”

The mayor has promised to speed the timeline for creating another 1,500 new supportive housing units. Originally planned for 2030, he says it will be done two years earlier. He added billions to the capital budget for affordable housing, growing that investment to $22 billion over 10 years.

Adams said that the blueprint was also unique in two other ways: For putting NYCHA into a citywide housing plan and for developing city policy based on feedback from currently and formerly homeless New Yorkers, some of whom attended a roundtable discussion at City Hall earlier this year.

Those conversations led to policies included in the plan that eliminated rules and burdensome elements of city services bureaucracy, Jessica Katz, the city’s chief housing officer, said at the news conference.

The plan calls for eliminating certain forms, such as one that requires people applying for federal housing support to find contact information for the parents of every child in the apartment, and eliminating redundant clinical evaluations for people seeking supportive housing.

“We always say we have a housing-first approach,” Katz said. “But in actual practice we have a paperwork first approach.”

Adams said he would not stop ongoing sweeps by city sanitation workers of homeless encampments, saying that the city would only offer housing assistance to people living in tent communities if they enter the city’s shelter system.

“In life I learned that idealism collides with realism,” Adams said. “We’re not going to tell people they can’t live on the streets. But you can’t build tents, you can’t build encampments. And we’re going to give them options.”

The housing plan also calls for creating a more accurate census of homeless New Yorkers, expanding access to loans for nonprofit services providers and working to prevent landlords and brokers from illegally discriminating against people using vouchers to help pay their rent.

The plan comes as the city is facing historic staffing shortages among caseworkers that handle services in shelters and help homeless New Yorkers access housing supports, leading to months-long waits for apartment placements in some cases.

To combat the city’s housing affordability crisis, the plan calls for pursuing changes to laws and zoning rules to allow for building a greater mix of housing styles to expand the number of single-person units, as well as speeding up a preexisting timeline for creating 15,000 new supportive housing units from a deadline of 2030 to 2028.

The city will also double the budget of an existing down payment assistance program and widen eligibility for the $100,000 forgivable it offers, and expand an existing home repair assistance fund.

Advocates for homeless and housing-insecure New Yorkers welcomed the plan’s goals, but criticized it for not including investments or policies that would quickly increase the amount of housing available across the city.

“Mayor Adams must dramatically expand the supply of permanent and supportive housing for homeless New Yorkers and extremely low-income households – which takes far bolder housing investments than are included in this plan,” Jacquelyn Simone, the policy director for the Coalition for the Homeless, said in a statement.

In a statement, Legal Aid said that “red tape is only a portion of the problem” in the city’s housing crisis, and called on the administration to expand capital spending on new housing construction.

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