After Cuomo omits public housing funds from budget, advocates speak out

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Jim Henderson

Activists – and Council Speaker Corey Johnson – are making demands from Albany after Governor Andrew Cuomo left additional funding for public housing in the 2021 fiscal year budget release last week.

With Legal Aid Society taking the lead, demands from Cuomo range from $3 billion in public housing funds, $500 million for rental vouchers to 20,000 new units of supportive housing for New Yorkers across the state.

Cuomo, in his executive budget address, simply reallocates up to $350 million from previous budgets meant to fund infrastructure upgrades.

“It is extremely disappointing that Governor Andrew Cuomo failed to include sufficient funding in his Executive Budget to combat the serious housing problems New Yorkers currently face,” Judith Goldiner, Attorney-in-Charge of the Civil Law Reform Unit at LAS, said. “New Yorkers need a budget that fully funds NYCHA, invests in rent support vouchers such as Home Stability Support, and prioritizes the immediate construction of 20,000 units of supportive housings. Our clients and others cannot wait another budget cycle. We need these measures passed this session.”

According to NYU’s Furman Center, NYCHA needs upwards of $31.8 billion, or about $180,700 per unit, over the next five years to replace failing building systems. NYCHA would need in the ballpark of $45.2 billion over the next 20 years.

“A lot of the programs that we have right now do not really solve the issue, but rather maintain it,” Clayton Roulhac-Carr, from VOCAL-NY, said. “We need permanent housing that is truly affordable for people living in the street, that means supportive housing and a voucher program to humanize people instead of showing them as a problem.”

Johnson held a press conference last week that recommended the city increase funding for housing vouchers to end the current homeless crisis and prevent future crises in the near future. This, he said, would be a cheaper and more effective alternative to creating homeless shelters.

“Our city is in the midst of a housing crisis, and we need the State to do its part. Our public housing system is crumbling and desperately needs more funding. We also need serious investments in rent vouchers to get people experiencing homelessness into permanent housing,” said Johnson.

What new funding did Cuomo allocate in the budget in regard to housing vouchers and homeless support?

On Jan. 29, the governor said $128 million for the Homeless Housing Assistance Program, which creates units for those living on the street, and an additional $5 million for supportive housing for veterans.

“While local governments and the feds have the financial obligation to make these investments, no Governor has done more to invest in housing and homelessness: with an unprecedented $650 million for NYCHA, $20 billion to build more than 100,000 affordable homes and 6,000 new units of supportive housing, and this budget doubles the investment for the Homeless Housing and Assistance Program to $128 million,” Caitlin Girouard, Press Secretary for Governor Cuomo, said. “If there are other real proposals, we will of course review them, but New Yorkers can spot a politician looking for a headline a mile away.”

This $133 million is part of Cuomo’s five-year plan to combat homelessness which he said would be funded by $20 billion.

This story first appeared on amny.com