In an effort to confront the city’s ongoing homeless crisis, Mayor Eric Adams stood alongside elected officials and union members to support a plan that would clear the streets and subways, and put a near-record number of unhoused New Yorkers into underutilized hotels.
The state bill, S.4937/A.6262, would make it easier for the city to use unoccupied hotels as affordable housing, which officials said could be converted into apartments quickly at a cost of two-thirds of new construction. The mayor joined with members of the Hotel Trades Council in Manhattan on Sunday to call on Albany lawmakers to push forward the bill, which was co-sponsored by state Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz and state Sen. Brian Kavanagh.
"We are facing a homelessness crisis and an affordable housing crisis," said Adams. "By repurposing underused hotels, we can make affordable, permanent housing available to families, seniors, and any New Yorker in need, including our neighbors experiencing homelessness."
The fund to do this is already available with $100 million from the Housing Our Neighbors with Dignity Act, passed last year to pay for hotel-to-apartment conversions, officials said. There is also a possibility for an additional $5 billion for these projects that Adams committed in his executive budget for capital funding to build more affordable housing, which is part of a $22-billion, 10-year plan to invest in additional housing.
"Good hotels create good jobs. They are responsible neighbors and elevate the reputation of the tourism industry by attracting more visitors," said Rich Maroko, president of the New York Hotel Trades Council in a statement. "But failing hotels provide only poverty-level jobs, bring crime to local communities, and tarnish the reputation of New York City's tourism industry. Converting these hotels into much-needed housing is a smart and effective way to help the city protect the safety of our neighbors, support tourism recovery, and safeguard good jobs."
The mayor's efforts to address homelessness in New York City were in the spotlight last month when his administration enacted a controversial program to remove unsheltered New Yorkers from street encampments. New Yorkers experiencing homelessness told Gothamist in previous interviews that they preferred sleeping on the street over the city's conventional homeless shelters due to safety concerns.
City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams threw her support behind the legislation, saying the plan would be a worthwhile tool in the fight to end homelessness.
"All New Yorkers deserve safe and stable housing, and we have to create more flexibility in our zoning and building codes to allow for the conversion of vacant hotels into desperately needed supportive and affordable housing," she said in a statement.
According to the mayor, there is a projected number of 25,000 beds that could be available for these conversions. As of February, the Coalition for the Homeless recorded nearly 50,000 New Yorkers were staying in shelters, nearly one-third were children.
“A countless number of hotel operators see this as a win,” Adams said. “These are rooms that are already built, so this is a perfect solution to a multitude of problems.”