Homeless families and individuals are staying in city shelters longer – an average of two-and-a-half years, according to new data recently released by the mayor’s office.
Meanwhile, the city’s production of affordable housing plunged 45% during the last fiscal year from June 2021 to July 2022, according to the annual Mayor’s Management Report. Housing advocated warn that the combination of the two could be troublesome for the city.
“We have a homelessness crisis, and yet people are languishing in shelters longer than ever before,” said Jacquelyn Simone, director of policy at the Coalition for the Homeless, an advocacy group.
The average length of stay in the city’s shelter system increased for all groups in the last fiscal year, according to the 506-page report released on Friday.
- Stays for adult families, defined as a household without a minor child, went up more than 10%, from 773 days to 855 days.
- Single adult shelter stays increased more than 5%, from 483 days to 509.
- Shelter stays for families with children went up nearly 3%, 520 days to 534.
New York City's recent influx of thousands of asylum seekers, many sent by Republican governors of southern states to Democratic-led cities, has pushed its shelter system to a “breaking” point, Mayor Eric Adams said.
As of Sunday, 57,000 people were residing in city shelters, according to the Department of Homeless Services daily shelter census. While it’s not the highest number of people in the city’s shelter system in recent years, there has been a rapid increase in the number of people entering the shelter system since the spring.
On Tuesday, the mayor said 13,000 migrants have arrived in New York City since the spring, with 9,500 asylum seekers residing in the shelter system.
The crisis over the influx of homeless residents came to a head over the weekend, when an asylum seeker living in a Queens shelter with her two children died by suicide.
Housing advocates and shelter providers say that the current shelter situation should prompt the Adams administration to rethink some of the rules that keep people out of permanent housing and in shelters longer.
“Then you have archaic rules within the Department of Homeless Services that frustrate the problem and make it so that people are almost forced – required almost – to stay longer,” said Christine Quinn, president of Women in Need, the city's largest provider of family shelter and supportive housing, a type of affordable housing.
Quinn’s group was among 43 shelter providers and advocates calling on Adams to scrap a decades-old rule that requires homeless individuals to live in a shelter for 90 days before they can apply for rent assistance that could get them into a permanent home.
During the last fiscal year, which included the first six months of Adams’ term in office, the city only moved 2,200 homeless people into affordable housing, according to the Mayor’s Management Report.
Red tape around the city’s rental subsidy program, known as CityFHEPS, makes applying confusing and and the process hard to navigate, said Catherine Trapani, executive director of advocacy group Homeless Services United, a coalition of 50 nonprofit agencies serving homeless and at-risk adults and families in New York City.
“The easiest thing to do right now would be to cut the administrative barriers and make using vouchers more accessible and make using them more like using cash,” Trapani said.
That means, she said, easing eligibility requirements and doing more to expedite the process, including paying landlords on time.
“Unless and until we level the playing field for voucher tenants, they won’t be able to compete with those who can put cash down immediately,” said Trapani.
The city has also cut back its ambition to build affordable housing at a time of increasing need. The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development estimated that the agency will create only 18,000 new affordable housing units in the next fiscal year, more than the last fiscal year, but much less than the previous four fiscal years, when production was above 25,000 units.
“Such a significant decline is a serious warning that New York is moving in the wrong direction on housing, and it will make it significantly harder for public investment to respond to this crisis,” said Rachel Fee, executive director of the New York Housing Conference.