Mayor Eric Adams rolled out a plan for the Big Apple on Tuesday that promised to help homeless New Yorkers find housing and combat soaring rents across the city, but lacked key details including how much housing he hoped to build across the five boroughs.
Adams swatted away and even tried to pre-empt questions about how his plan would remedy the city’s decades-long failure to construct enough new apartments and homes to meet demand, failures his own top appointees described as crucial contributors to skyrocketing rents and the city’s homelessness crisis.
“It’s often asked, ‘How many units you going to build? How many units you going to build? How many units are you going to build?’ If that is one of the on-topic questions you’re going to ask me, don’t, because I’m not answering that,” Adams said, attempting to forestall the most obvious question from the reporters assembled at the rollout.
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He then repeatedly turned away questions about those crucial figures and stated his only benchmark was to get “as many people as it’s possible to get in housing.”
The figure matters.
New York City permitted just 197,000 new homes and apartments between 2009 and 2018 as the city added 700,000 jobs — a mismatch that the Department of City Planning warned in 2019 threatened the Big Apple’s economy.
The Big Apple hasn’t built more than 200,000 new units of housing — including market-rate, subsidized or publicly-owned — in any single decade since the 1960s, a damning report released by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development in 2020 revealed.
Adams’ own 97-page document states that New York’s population growth exceeded the amount of housing built for three of the last four decades.
“The lack of housing and affordable housing puts New Yorkers at greater risk of housing
instability and makes it more difficult for residents experiencing homelessness to regain stable housing,” it reads.
The result is a decades-long housing crunch that’s been massively compounded as New Yorkers returning after the initial waves of the coronavirus duke it out for apartments with long-timers looking for better living arrangements after two years of work from home, all of whom are competing against those looking to move to the Big Apple for the first time.
Adams’ rollout unfolded against that backdrop of soaring rents on the 29th-story rooftop terrace of a former hotel in downtown Brooklyn that has been transformed into a building with nearly 500 apartments for homeless and low-income New Yorkers thanks, in part, to financing from City Hall.
There, in front of jaw-dropping views of the Manhattan skyline, Hizzoner and his top housing and social services officials argued their housing plan was New York’s most comprehensive ever for tackling the housing crisis and homelessness.
Most of the new announcements in the plan focused on cutting paperwork and speeding the process of getting people into already built units:
- Homeless New Yorkers will no longer have to spend four months in shelters before being able to begin applications for apartments;
- HPD’s process for applications and selecting residents for apartments awarded through the city’s housing lottery would be expedited.
The reforms come after The Post revealed that bureaucratic dysfunction at city social services agencies let roughly 2,500 apartments for homeless New Yorkers go empty.
Adams and his top aides also touted the $500 million in new housing funding in the 2023 budget, which will allow Big Apple housing agencies to continue to fund the remodeling or construction of 25,000 rent-stabilized apartments annually even as inflation pushes up costs.
And they applauded state lawmakers in Albany for finally approving an overhaul of the scandal-scarred NYC Housing Authority that will make it eligible to receive billions in additional federal aid for repairs.
“The cavalry is coming. We are going to place New Yorkers into housing,” Adams said. “Difficult task. Huge task. Huge undertaking. We’re clear on that.”