Mayor agrees to require units for homeless in city-backed projects

De Blasio caves on bill that had wide support in City Council

Dec.December 13, 2019 11:31 AM
Mayor Bill de Blasio (Credit: Getty Images)

Mayor Bill de Blasio (Credit: Getty Images)

The City Council has persuaded Mayor Bill de Blasio to require that some apartments in large city-financed projects be set aside for homeless people.

The de Blasio administration had long opposed a 2018 bill introduced by Council member Rafael Salamanca to require developers to devote 15 percent of apartments for people coming out of homeless shelters for projects of 15 or more units receiving a city subsidy. But Politico reported that the mayor reached a compromise: The mandate will apply only to projects with more than 41 apartments.

The requirement is expected to create 1,000 units of housing each year for homeless persons. The City Council will vote on the bill next week.

The agreement comes as Mayor Bill de Blasio continues to be criticized for his handling of New York City’s homelessness problem. Critics say the mayor’s plan to create 300,000 affordable units by 2026 has not done nearly enough to provide the most vulnerable New Yorkers with permanent housing.

Louise Carroll, commissioner of the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, had argued that Salamanca’s bill could make the problem worse by limiting her agency’s flexibility to fund projects.

Even affordable-housing projects that set aside no units for shelter residents play a role in ameliorating homelessness, she argued, because they house families who are at high risk of losing their homes. She had said the bill would prevent some of these projects from happening at all by altering their economics.

The mayor supported that position but in a radio interview several weeks ago signaled that he was willing to compromise with Salamanca, a Bronx Democrat. The project-by-project requirement is less flexible than the option de Blasio had been pushing for: an aggregate number of units to be set aside across all new projects.

As the city’s homeless population balloons, private developers are stepping up to meet demands for sustainable homeless housing with newly built properties, which charge the city additional fees.

The bill, which has a veto-proof majority of sponsors in the Council, also requires the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to provide an annual report on units set aside for homeless in new developments to the Council speaker and the mayor. [Politico] — Georgia Kromrei

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