Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a plan today that could go a long way toward combating the city’s worsening homeless crisis. Rather than dump more of the city’s homeless into the overcrowded shelter system or continue with the unpopular practice of placing people in hotels in communities throughout the five boroughs, the mayor said on Tuesday that the city would convert “cluster housing” into affordable apartments.
Under the mayor’s plan, dilapidated temporary apartments would be transformed into permanently affordable homes. During the initiative, the city would partner with nonprofit developers and use public funds to acquire sites and transform them into affordable housing units. The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development would work with the owners of the units to ensure that they remain affordable and prioritized for the formerly homeless and low-income residents.
We commend the mayor for finding a way to create stable, long-term housing for the homeless. The city has an enormous inventory of vacant and temporary housing that has long been underutilized. This proposal seeks a solution to two objectives of the mayor: increasing affordable housing across the five boroughs and providing long-term shelter and security for families who have been left homeless. It’s a win-win, as it helps those in need while making proper use of vacant property. The mayor’s proposal to use nonprofit organizations for the project—rather than private residential developers who would just grab the money and run—is also a smart choice.
In recent years, New York City’s homeless problem has progressively gotten worse and during the recent mayoral campaign, one of the main lines of attack on de Blasio was his response to the homeless crisis. With his new plan to convert cluster housing into affordable units, he has the opportunity to silence his critics on the issue.