Tish James to city: Stop converting rent-stabilized units into homeless shelters

City has $98M in contracts with building owners

Sep.September 22, 2017 05:15 PM

From left: 1838 Vyse Avenue, Letitia James and Mayor Bill de Blasio (Credit: Getty Images)

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to curb homelessness in New York City is exacerbating the housing crisis, according to New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, who is calling on the mayor to stop allowing landlords of rent-stabilized apartments to turn their buildings into homeless shelters.

The city has $98 million in contracts out with such building owners, who ironically are chipping away at the stock of affordable rental housing by repurposing their buildings for temporary quarters for the city’s homeless.

That’s because once the contracts with the city expire, the landlords may be able to permanently remove the apartments from rent stabilization and rent out the apartments at high, market rates.

“These pending contracts attempt to solve one problem by exacerbating another,” James told Gothamist.

The units in question number more than 300 and are located in Brooklyn and the Bronx.

Critics of the program want the city to instead consider longterm, affordable housing solutions for the homeless instead of makeshift, shelters cobbled together with rent-stabilized apartments.

“We need real housing, permanent housing that’s actually affordable to homeless people,” said Lisa Milhouse, a member of advocacy group Picture the Homeless and a resident of one of the affected buildings.

Last fall, HPD quietly introduced a new rule allowing the city to house homeless families in rent-stabilized affordable housing units created in new developments built with the 421a tax exemption, provoking the ire of some New York developers. [Gothamist] — Will Parker

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