De Blasio Seeks 90 New Shelters as NYC's Homelessness Increases

  • The shelter population of 60,000 is 20% higher than in 2014
  • The problem persists as the mayor seeks re-election in 2017

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to increase the number of homeless shelters by more than 30 percent, after a three-year experiment with rent subsidies, legal protections to prevent eviction and placing hundreds of families in hotel rooms failed to stop a rise in residents without housing.

The plan lacked a price tag or specifics on where the 90 new shelters may be located, though the mayor, a 55-year-old Democrat, said he would strive for “equity” across the most populous U.S. city. Past efforts to put the homeless in apartments and hotels have often met resistance from neighborhood residents and community boards.  

De Blasio, who is seeking re-election this year, said this plan would eliminate the use of hotels and apartments, reducing by 45 percent the number of locations where people are temporarily housed. Ultimately, all of the homeless would be in shelters, with uniform standards and oversight. The policy would aim to retain people in their own neighborhoods, and when possible, reimburse families to take in and house their relatives.

“Today begins a new approach, building on what has worked in the past, rejecting what hasn’t worked and implementing a new, 21st century response to the 21st century reality of homelessness,” the administration said in a report Tuesday.

De Blasio blamed the crisis on the city’s rising housing costs over the past several decades, federal and state policies that cut rental assistance to people in shelters if they get job training, and reductions in subsidies that helped finance low-cost housing. 

The city’s shelter population has increased to about 60,000 from 51,470 in January 2014, when de Blasio took office. There are 287 shelters in the city, plus more than 350 hotels and so-called cluster apartments. Without the administration’s recent efforts to address homelessness, the shelter population would have climbed to almost 70,000, according to the report.

De Blasio set a goal to reduce the number of people in shelters by 2,500 in five years. His plan envisions completing all 90 new shelters by 2023, with 20 new facilities opening in each of 2017 and 2018. He also called for expansion and renovations to 30 existing shelters. The police department will oversee security in the new facilities, which will offer career, mental health and substance abuse counseling, de Blasio said.

De Blasio also has a goal to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing through 2024, of which about 62,500 have already been financed, he said.

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