Governor Andrew Cuomo rolled out a five-year, $20 billion housing plan during his State of the State speech on Wednesday that promised to alleviate rent burdens for many New Yorkers and address the city’s ballooning homeless population.
The proposal would allocate $10 billion toward creating and preserving 100,000 affordable housing units state-wide through the House NY 2020 Plan — boosting affordable housing funds by $5 billion, Cuomo said.
The governor also promised an additional $10 billion to expand homeless services and create 6,000 supportive housing beds and 1,000 emergency beds for the homeless. Calling his proposal the largest commitment to addressing homelessness in state history, Cuomo said the goal is to increase the number of spaces to house the homeless by 20,000 over the next 15 years.
The governor’s plan also empowers City Comptroller Scott Stringer, as well as the state comptroller and the comptroller of Buffalo, to audit safety conditions in homeless shelters. Cuomo said state inspectors have identified more than 2,500 health and safety violations at homeless shelters since April of last year.
Some have attributed the spike in homelessness to the city’s affordable housing crisis, pointing out that average rents are rapidly climbing out of reach for many New Yorkers. In a statement, Stringer praised the governor’s effort to bring greater oversight for the city’s homeless shelters.
“Homeless shelters are our invisible city,” he said. “I will work with my fellow Comptrollers, as well as our partners in City and State government, to continue to audit and investigate our shelters in a comprehensive way and ensure they are safe for our most vulnerable citizens. Increased state support is critical to addressing this challenge.”
The governor’s commitment to towards greater affordable housing comes amidst Mayor Bill de Blasio’s own push tackle the city’s homeless and housing crises. The Mayor has put forward a 10-year plan to create 200,000 affordable units — largely through new zoning measures that he hopes will fuel a building boom in the city. However, the effort has run up against fierce opposition from community boards and advocacy groups who worry the measures will destroy the character of their neighborhoods.
De Blasio told reporters after the speech that “the state has not played a direct funding role in our 200,000 units” but said the governor’s plan “can only be for the good of New York City if the state is making an additional commitment to New York City on affordable housing,” according to Capital New York.
When the mayor unveiled a plan in November to create 15,000 supportive housing units, which provide substance abuse and mental health treatment for the homeless, he declared that the city was “acting decisively; we are not waiting on Albany,” the New York Times reports.
Other lawmakers were less supportive of the Governor’s agenda. In a statement, Senator Marty Golden said he had concerns that Cuomo’s plan to expand affordable and supportive housing — as well as billions in spending for Medicaid growth and the City University of New York — would ask “the taxpayers of the Big Apple to shoulder the expense of an overzealous spending plan.”