BY JAMES FARRELL
A coalition of 30 city council members—including 10 from Queens—joined Public Advocate Letitia James on Tuesday, Nov. 22, to endorse Home Stability Support (HSS), a plan by fellow Queens legislator Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) to alleviate homelessness in New York.
The city officials gathered on the steps of City Hall to announce their support before the Thanksgiving holiday. They join a growing statewide throng of voices throwing their support behind Hevesi’s plan, including the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys and the New York State Conference of Mayors.
“As New York City council members, we are alarmed at the growing homeless crisis in New York State,” read a letter signed by the 30 council members and addressed to Governor Andrew Cuomo, requesting his support for the plan. “New York City alone has 60,000 individuals, including over 23,000 children, who are homeless. We urge you to initiate a new program to reduce the large number of families and individuals being driven into homelessness each and every day.”
The HSS plan aims to alleviate homelessness and reduce the burdens on overcrowded and underfunded homeless shelters by increasing rental subsidies for families struggling to make ends meet. The goal is to make it easier for families to stay in their homes even as rents across the city continue to rise. The subsidies would be both state and federally funded.
Among the Queens legislators joining Hevesi and co-sponsor Council Member Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) are council members Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), Elizabeth Crowley (D-Maspeth), Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans), Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), Peter Koo (D-Flushing), Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) and Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica).
“In one of the wealthiest cities in the world, it is absolutely inexcusable, intolerable and indefensible that there are increasing numbers of children, families and individuals who are struggling to find basic shelter,” said Grodenchik in a statement. “Assembly member Hevesi’s Home Stability Support program would be a significant step in reversing this trend. I am happy to announce that the majority of the New York City Council backs this proposal , and I am hopeful that the governor will consider implementing it as soon as possible.”
According to the HSS website, prior to 1975, rents for families on public assistance were paid in full. A system of “shelter allowances” was implemented in 1975, which put regulatory limits on rent assistance based on a number of factors.
However, HSS advocates argue that the shelter allowances have not kept up with the rent as prices have skyrocketed through the years. Today, two-thirds of public -assistance households living in private housing have rents that exceed their shelter allowances, according to the HSS website.
The plan would be costly—estimates say that it would cost $11,224 per year to cover the costs for a family of three. However, advocates argue that the plan would save money in the long term, as taxpayers currently pay billions of dollars in funding the shelter system, as well as other services burdened by homelessness such as housing courts, law enforcement and soup kitchens. Estimates say that the net savings to cover the costs for a family of three would be $27,236 per year.
New York City is currently dealing with an overwhelming problem with homelessness. Last week, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a report estimating that 73,523 homeless people were currently living in New York City.
In a statement, Hevesi thanked James and Grodenchik.
“Our city has long been a leader in finding creative solutions to the greatest challenges we as a society face,” Hevesi said. “The growing homeless crisis is no different. Home Stability Support has the potential to keep thousands of New Yorkers in their own homes in a way that’s both fiscally and socially responsible.”
Reach James Farrell at (718) 357-7400 x 127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @farrellj329.