NYC is battling twin crises — homelessness and affordable housing. Their common denominator is a wealth gap that exacerbates the city’s cost of living: Far too many New Yorkers cannot find a safe, affordable home.
Rising rents and house-flipping are draining our already-threadbare supply of affordable housing units. It’s not surprising to see a rise in homelessness, with women and children comprising more than 70 percent of New Yorkers living in shelters.
One number that might say the most about our housing crisis is the one that emerged earlier this year: 49,000. That’s the number of applications families sent to Win to live in Stone House, an $80-million supportive housing development that Win opened in Brownsville in June. Stone House is the largest supportive housing development for families on the East Coast, featuring 160 units designed and developed for lower-income and formerly homeless families. It’s high-quality, dignified living and it is a major step forward for NYC families fighting to find stable housing and not return to shelters — the most important metric in this crisis.
Through supportive housing, families that live at Stone House receive many of the essential tools to help people get back on their feet. On-site services include job training, job and career reviews, and referrals to treat long-standing medical needs. It’s a game-changing program that empowers families with the tools for finding stability, safety and greater independence. Mayor Bill de Blasio has set a goal of adding 15,000 units of supportive housing over the next 15 years, which we applaud and look forward to taking the lead on building.
Providing men and women with both a home and a supportive environment is critical to help break the homelessness cycle. That’s the measure of success — are we stopping the vicious cycle of instability?
While there’s no one silver bullet to fix this housing crisis, Stone House is transformational. It took a decade to make it a reality. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio contributed significant resources to push it over the finish line. Now, we need to fast-track more of these developments so that more units are available to help thousands more move out of shelters.
NYC also should increase the use of housing vouchers. Over the past three years, Win has found that 98 percent of families placed in housing through programs like Living in Communities and rental assistance were still in their homes one year later. It’s a strategy that works and we need to leverage it.
We have to ask ourselves what kind of city we want to be. With safer, cleaner neighborhoods, higher property values, and higher incomes than the rest of the country, there is much to celebrate — but a rising economy is only of value if it lifts every New Yorker. Increasing supportive housing is an indicator that NYC is heading in the right direction.
Christine Quinn, a former City Council speaker, is the president and chief executive of Win, a provider of shelter, social services, and supportive housing for homeless families in NYC.