With the recent controversy over a condo development turned homeless shelter on East New York Avenue in mind, I looked up the city budget for homeless families on David Yassky’s new site ItsYourMoneyNYC.com. On average, according to the budget, the city pays $32,400 per year to house homeless families.
That’s about the same as what the city has offered per family to Avi Shriki and HQ Marketing Partners for housing 67 families in their failed condo development on East New York Avenue in Crown Heights.
But why is the city paying an average of $32,000 per year for families with kids, and $50,500 per year for families without kids, who, regardless of the money spent, are still without a permanent home? The mayor recently reminded families with the good luck to move in on East New York Avenue that the housing was only temporary.
The developer will receive $2,170,800 per year to house families impermanently. Meanwhile, the city contributes $195,800 less than that per year – $1,975,000, 1% of the entire budget – to the Section 8 housing voucher program, while the federal government contributes $244,101,000. That means that the city is giving 67 homeless families more money per year than they contribute on behalf of the families in the Section 8 program.
The rules to apply for Section 8, according to the budget:
- HPD’s Section 8 vouchers are reserved for specific candidates, who must be recommended by another City agency, HPD program, or other housing providers.
- Families can select housing within a neighborhood of their choice from a landlord willing to participate in the program
Far more wise would be to recommend homeless families to HPD and fund the voucher system we already have for housing in private, free market residences. New York has enough empty apartments, and a voucher system would serve to further integrate and diversify communities. Why not let lots of developers benefit, and families have permanent homes?
Discrimination against renters with vouchers would have to be illegal, and regulations reviewed for length of time families can remain on vouchers. Additionally, possible contributions by the renter and retraining and educational services could work in tandem with the program.
The problem with the current state of our social services is that they rarely aim to eliminate social ailments, but instead maintain them at the lowest capital cost.
We’ve entered an era of investing in our own self-improvement, which also works to eradicate the cycle of poverty. By empowering families to find housing, you empower them to settle down and make lives for themselves, so that they might focus on the future and not just on the day to day struggle.
Meanwhile, the Crown Heights community isn’t thrilled to have a shelter of sorts open in their neighborhood without community approval and plan to protest on June 22. Crown Heights is already home to the largest men’s shelter in the city, and in a related matter, it is rumored that the homeless men in a Manhattan facility might potentially be bused to Crown Heights, adding to its burden.
Update: Yeah, they closed the Manhattan facility.