Why New York Needs a New Statewide Supportive Housing Agreement

One out of every seven homeless people in the United States lives in New York.  Statewide, there are roughly 67,000 men, women and children staying in shelters at any given time.  In New York City (NYC) alone, nearly 59,000 people, including 24,000 children, sleep in a homeless shelter each night. An additional 7,700 people stay in a shelter outside NYC. Thousands of others sleep on the streets or in abandoned buildings and makeshift campsites, while thousands more exit foster care, hospitals and other institutions each year without a home.

Homelessness in New York has nearly doubled in the last decade. New York State (NYS) must end this crisis and invest in the most cost-effective strategy proven to solve homelessness for those with the greatest needs: supportive housing, which pairs affordable housing with on-site supportive services.  We call on Governor Cuomo to work with NYC and the other localities with large and growing homeless populations across NYS to create 35,000 units of supportive housing over the next ten years: 30,000 units in NYC and 5,000 units outside NYC.

Supportive housing is by far the most successful way to end homelessness for individuals and families living with disabilities and other challenges.  However, there is not nearly enough supply to meet the record need, and the current City-State supportive housing production initiative, the New York/New York III Agreement (NY/NY III), is expiring. 

Unfortunately, four out of every five people found eligible for supportive housing in NYC have had to stay in shelter or on the street because there are too few supportive housing units available to meet the current need.  Outside of NYC, where there is no NY/NY program, there are even fewer resources.

Supportive Housing Solves Homelessness, Improves Neighborhoods, and Saves Tax Dollars

By almost every measure, supportive housing has been a success.  It has:

  • Reduced use of shelters, hospitals, psychiatric centers and incarceration, for an average net public savings of $10,100 per unit per year;
  • Decreased chronic homelessness among single adults by 47% in the first five years of the NY/NY III agreement; 
  • Provided stability, as more than 86%  of NY/NY III tenants remain housed after one year; and
  • Raised real estate values for properties located closest to supportive housing developments.

A new statewide NY/NY supportive housing program should continue to prioritize individuals with long histories of homelessness and illness. Specifically, it should:

  • Target the vast majority of resources toward individuals, families (including adult families) and young adults who are homeless and vulnerable, including those living with serious and persistent mental illnesses, chronic health conditions including HIV/AIDS, and long term addiction. This would include people living on the street and in the various shelter systems. It should continue what NY/NY III began by also allowing certain units targeted toward people exiting institutions into homelessness who have multiple disabilities and/or barriers to obtaining housing on their own. 
     
  • Allocate greater resources to help those with the greatest needs. Research shows that an estimated 20% of homeless families need housing with onsite supports – more than simple rental assistance – in order to overcome homelessness. Much greater proportions of homeless individuals, particularly those with disabilities, need both the housing and services that supportive housing provides. We recommend dedicating two-thirds of the units in the new statewide NY/NY program to individuals (23,350 units), with the remaining one-third for families (10,150 units) and youth (1,500 units).
     
  • Promote creation and use of a coordinated assessment and referral system with a risk assessment tool that can match need with resources, and ensure that the most vulnerable families and individuals can access supportive housing.  
     
  • Provide adequate funding to operate the housing and provide support services.  To be a viable resource, scattered-site supportive housing will need adequate funds to keep pace with market rents over time and all supportive housing will require long-term contracts as well as adequate operating and service funds to provide sufficient supports to help tenants remain healthy and stable.