Housing advocates argue that Mayor Eric Adams’ plans to spend $22 billion over the next decade to preserve and build affordable housing in New York City is not enough to address the city’s housing crisis and falls far short of what he promised last year during his mayoral campaign.
Adams presented his executive budget on Tuesday and said he added an additional $5 billion to the initial $17 billion he proposed in his preliminary budget presented in February. The amount would raise total housing capital spending from an average of $2 billion annually to about $2.5 billion for the next four years.
Even so, the New York Housing Conference (NYHC), an advocacy and policy group for affordable housing, said it’s a lot less than the $4 billion a year Adams promised when he was a candidate vying to become New York City’s mayor.
“It's just not enough,” said Brendan Cheney, the group’s director of policy and communications. “It's not going to get us much in the way of additional affordable housing production above what is already planned.”
During the mayoral campaign, NYHC convened more than 90 organizations with expertise in housing, homelessness, real estate, and finance to develop a housing plan. The coalition promoted candidates who pledged to invest $4 billion a year in affordable housing, including money to repair the city’s public housing stock as well as reduce and prevent homelessness.
Adams was among the mayoral candidates who agreed to the commitment and signed onto the blueprint the coalition, which calls itself United for Housing, developed.
Charles Lutvak, a spokesperson for the mayor, declined to comment and referred to remarks Adams made on Tuesday during a news conference shortly after he released his executive budget.
“We're at the highest level right now, and we're going to continue to work with our housing advocates to get this right,” Adams said.
Mayor Adams unveiled his $99.7 billion executive budget, his first, at the opulent Kings Theatre in Brooklyn. The venue was originally chosen for his inauguration that he canceled in January due to concerns over the rise of COVID-19 infections driven by the omicron variant.
In front of an audience of supporters, Adams highlighted several spending priorities, including an additional $177 million for homeless services to create 1,400 Safe Haven beds aimed at bringing homeless people from the streets indoors.
The pandemic exacerbated a housing crisis that started long before the virus was first detected in New York City in 2020. In 2019, there were 78,600 homeless people living in the city’s shelters on any given night, 59% more than in 2009, according to United for Housing’s plan. The city’s public housing, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), provides housing for more than 400,000 low-income and moderate-income residents and needs $40 billion to fix and restore its buildings and apartments, according to a 2021 report issued by United for Housing.
Under the Bill de Blasio administration, the city produced roughly 9,000 to 10,000 units of new affordable housing a year and preserved another 19,000 to 20,000 affordable units annually, said Cheney of NYHC. He added the $2.5 billion a year in capital spending on affordable housing that Adams proposed will allow the city to produce the same level of affordable housing units but will not help the city generate additional units, which he said is key to solving the problem of housing affordability in the city.
“Under this status quo, there will be affordable housing units produced. But we're going to maintain this unacceptable status quo, an ongoing housing crisis with high levels of homelessness, high levels of people that are paying more than they can afford in their rent, and experiencing housing crises,” Cheney said.
Mayor Adams’ capital spending plan for NYCHA maintains existing financial commitments, according to NYHC.
Not all members of the United for Housing coalition are critical of Mayor Adams backtracking on his campaign promise.
James Whelan, president of the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), the lobbying arm of the real estate industry that’s found Adams to be an ally of the sector, said the group is “pleased” to see the increased capital spending Adams proposed but said the city will need a lot more housing supply outside of public units to keep pace with population and job growth.
“Comprehensively addressing this crisis will require more action at both the City and State level, particularly to advance policies that reflect the vital role the private sector must play in producing the approximately 560,000 new homes that will be needed citywide by 2030,” Whelan said in a statement.
The New York City Council in March laid out its own priorities, including $4 billion a year of capital spending for affordable housing that advocates want.
Speaker Adrienne Adams, who represents Southeast Queens, said on Thursday she believes the Council will want to spend more on housing than the $22 billion over a decade the mayor proposed.
“We’re still trying to climb out of this pandemic,” Speaker Adams said shortly before convening a Council meeting. “People are sleeping on the trains, people are still living in encampment areas. We’re trying to, you know, make their lives a lot better. We can’t do that without housing.”
The two branches of city government will negotiate and decide how to spend taxpayers’ money in the coming years.
The city has until June 30 to approve a final budget.