Would you pay $2,700 per month to eat off granite counter tops on East New York Avenue?
The Daily News sort of buried the lead on a story last week about the city paying rent to a developer in Crown Heights who has been contracted to house 67 homeless families. The rag only divulged the monthly total paid by the city to the developer in a video adjacent to the article online, leaving print readers to wonder.
Their storyline: “the homeless are livin’ large in Brooklyn.”
The monthly cost per apartment? It’s $2,700 for a two bedroom apartment on East New York Avenue. The contract, signed with the Bushwick Economic Development Group is to span ten years, which means that over the course of that time New York City will be obligated to pay the developer Avi Shriki and HQ Marketing Partners over $21,700,000 to house 67 families.
Nobody is disputing whether or not to spend this money on the homeless, however, it should be money well-spent for maximum impact. The city’s heart is in the right place, but one of the reasons the system for housing the homeless is so backed up as to need emergency placements like this is because of the lack of Section 8 housing vouchers for deserving families. This program has been heavily de-funded in recent years.
When I worked in constituent services for a state senator in the borough years ago, the best advice my office was able to give families without a home was to enter the shelter system in hopes of getting an emergency placement somewhere. Section 8 was a godsend to many, and allowed families to pad their income and afford their rent, which they often contributed to on top of the voucher. But drawing that kind of luck was normally a lost cause thanks to budget cuts at city, state and federal housing authorities, and most people opted to remain with the relatives or friends who took them in rather than go through the nightmare of living in a shelter.
So why are we discarding a system that works in favor of handing over a hefty check to a developer who probably gambled a little too hard and lost? It’s bailout time. For a hefty sum like $21,700,000 we can house more people and use the free market system we’ve neglected as of late.
Not to mention the fact that the city skirted some rules when it went ahead in approving what is basically, but not technically, a homeless shelter in a neighborhood without engaging the residents in an approval process. Not to mention that Crown Heights is already home to one of the largest shelters in the city.
Now, the mayor has told those 67 lucky families not to get too comfy in their new “luxury” apartments because their placement should be treated as transitional housing. With vouchers, these families could be weened off the system over time, and have a better chance at setting up a permanent home. Luxury, as it turns out, is fleeting.
If Section 8 vouchers were funded and open to the families that require assistance immediately, the homeless could use taxpayer dollars in a competitive market. For now, we’re using taxpayer dollars to pay an inflated price that was determined behind closed doors.
Ironically, in its attempt to save the free market, the City is merely furthering along its demise.
(Photo via Daily News)