Report Advocates More Supportive Housing in NYC

A newly released report, “Building Futures: Creating More Family Supportive Housing in New York City,” details how New York City and the State of New York can bolster their commitments to housing for chronically homeless families.

New York—A newly released report, “Building Futures: Creating More Family Supportive Housing in New York City,” details how New York City and the State of New York can bolster their commitments to housing for chronically homeless families. The report, a collaboration of Enterprise Community Partners, the Supportive Housing Network of New York and Corporation for Supportive Housing, argues for more supportive housing, notes the barriers to its development and offers ideas for overcoming those barriers.

First the report makes the case for more city- and state-supported supportive housing because of the magnitude of the problem. For one thing, family homelessness in New York City is high, perhaps at an all-time high. More than 10,900 families, including roughly 18,400 children, are now living in homeless shelters in New York City, up 13 percent in the last year.

For many of these families, escaping homelessness is possible and even likely, once they find an affordable apartment, but for others the challenges run much deeper, the report asserts. Some 15 percent to 20 percent of homeless families are dealing with HIV/AIDS, mental illness, substance abuse, and other overwhelming problems, the net impact of which is to cycle them repeatedly through homelessness. Permanent supportive housing, whose salient feature is on-site case-management services (besides being affordable), is a model well suited to helping this hard-pressed population, the report says.

The city and state agreed in 2005 to develop 1,150 new units of supportive housing for chronically homeless families over ten years, as part of the New York/New York III Agreement. Despite this, only 279 units have been developed as of early 2012.

The report specifies some of these barriers to development: insufficient capital devoted to family supportive housing; the lack of guaranteed rental subsidies; and the need for greater understanding of the benefits of investing in family supportive housing among new investors. Also, finding sites that are properly zoned, affordable and near public transportation and amenities is a challenge in New York City, especially since family supportive housing needs significantly larger lots to accommodate family-sized apartments.

However, in June, the city said that it would double annual production of supportive housing, from 500 units to 1,000 units per year, and New York State increased funding for supportive housing for high-cost Medicaid recipients. The report makes proposals to build on this new momentum, including creating a dedicated capital source for funding supportive housing for families through government funds, legislative requirements, Low Income Housing Tax Credits, and bonds.

The report also recommends a number of other steps to promote supportive housing in New York City. They include using a greater portion of the city and state’s share of federal rental subsidies (such as Section 8 vouchers) for family supportive housing; providing further information to inform investors and credit committees about the benefits of investing in family supportive housing; and including family supportive housing in city land RFPs and allowing for land banking to develop supportive housing.