homelessgraph.jpgWhile Mayor Bloomberg may have given himself an A on his personal report card that determes how well he fulfilled goals of his administration, one blot on that report card is the recent rise in the number of homeless people in New York City. When he was elected, Bloomberg promised to cut the number of homeless people by two-thirds. Today, the number of homeless people in the city is at a 20 year high.

The New York Times
details how it was not for a lack of trying that homeless grew during Bloomberg's tenure in office. The city spent $79 million on initiatives to fight the problem, including a Compstat-like program to track incidences of homelessness and identify trends that could be corrected before they became full-fledged problems. Bloomberg took on programs that he thought encouraged people in marginal housing to become homeless, and met stiff opposition.

Advocates for the homeless are gearing up for the types of courtroom battles they engaged in 20 years ago, while an urban policy expert at the Manhattan Institute describes the intransigence of the problem as an example of the limitation of technocratic approaches to what are social problems, and the belief that one is dealing with reasonable actors.

We wonder if Bloomberg might not be a victim of his own success and the economic success of New York City as a whole. Soaring real estate prices and the increased livability of the city are attracting more and more people to live and stay in New York. The high price of real estate has led developers to convert marginal housing stock to high-value residences. We imagine this has a ripple effect that eventually nudges some people on the edge of poverty out of their residences and onto the street.