Many families who were evacuated from their homes by Hurricane Sandy won't find a permanent place to stay for months, and others may be without a home indefinitely. Testifying at an emergency City Council hearing yesterday, Brad Gair, the director of the Mayor's Office of Housing Recovery Operations (HRO) said that only 10% of the 900 families registered with the city's hotel sheltering program will find permanent housing with in the next few weeks, and a mere 25% more are expected to find permanent housing within the next three months. "Housing is, and will be, the most daunting challenge," for the city, Gair told councilmembers.
Though the city's Rapid Repairs program has helped make an estimated 19,164 individual residential units fully livable again after Sandy, many families continue to be shuffled from hotel to hotel, with no end in sight. The 900 families still registered with the city's shelter program only represent a portion of the total number of displaced families. The Coalition for the Homeless told WNYC earlier this month that more than 3,100 families were still being housed in hotels funded by FEMA and the city. "Unless all families self-report, it's very hard to determine" how many are actually still without a permanent residence, Gair said.
In addition to the hotel shelter program, the city has been working with private real estate organizations and NYCHA to help find housing for refugees, to be paid for using federal Section 8 vouchers. NYCHA has made around 400 units available to those displaced by Sandy, but of the 5,000 Section 8 housing vouchers the Housing Recovering Office requested, the city has received only 150.
Councilmember Brad Lander and Giselle Routhier, a representative from the Coalition for the Homeless, along with representatives from Legal Aid NYC, said that the city should push for immediate housing for all those still displaced, and especially for more Section 8 vouchers. Housing committee chair, Erik Martin-Dilan, said he was willing to hold the city accountable: "I am willing to pin the city to the carpet to push for more vouchers."
Gair responded to the insinuation that the city was dragging its feet by saying that "there are no unnecessary delays, it just takes time." Given the anxiety over the upcoming sequestration in Washington, the HRO did not appear hopeful for any faster resolution to the city's Sandy housing woes.