NYAPRS Note: According to Politico, supportive housing advocates – and certainly the homeless – have benefitted from competition between Governor Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio as to who will be “Mr. Housing.” The promised 35,000 supportive housing units (over 15 years) – 15,000 from Mayor de Blasio, and an additional 20,000 from Governor Cuomo – is an unprecedented commitment and represents a great victory for our community.
NYAPRS urges the Governor and Mayor to formalize their commitment to supportive housing by signing an agreement that coordinates the city and state’s important roles in creating the 35,000 supportive units.
Homeless Housing Gets Boost From Cuomo-De Blasio Feud
By Brendan Cheney Politico New York February 1, 2016
The ongoing rivalry between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio over who is more committed to helping the city's homeless population could pay dividends for homeless housing.
Advocates had called for the mayor and governor to come together — as previous executives had before them — to announce an unprecedented 35,000 units of supportive housing, which includes on-site services like counseling and caseworkers.
Instead, the two bickered publicly over who was better equipped to solve the problem, and de Blasio announced his own plan in November, saying the city was "acting decisively" to create 15,000 units of supportive housing.
Two months later, Cuomo — who has made a habit of upstaging de Blasio — announced in his budget address that the state would create 20,000 units of supportive housing, as de Blasio looked on from the crowd.
For a total of 35,000.
"The mayor and the governor were competing to see who could be Mr. Housing," said Michael Callaghan, the executive director of Nazareth Housing, a nonprofit that provides housing and services for homeless people. "And that competition was good for homeless people, good for the city and good for the state."
The two plans together will nearly double the amount Cuomo and de Blasio were previously proposing, and would total far more supportive housing apartments than any of the previous agreements between the city and the state.
In 1990, the governor’s father, Mario Cuomo, negotiated a deal with his former rival Ed Koch — and later signed it with David Dinkins — for 3,615 supportive housing apartments. In 1999, Rudy Giuliani and George Pataki signed a deal for 1,500 units. And in 2005, Pataki and Michael Bloomberg negotiated a deal for 9,000 units.
Before they began feuding over the summer, neither de Blasio nor Cuomo had put much public emphasis on homelessness.
Cuomo did not mention the issue in his first four State of the State speeches, and de Blasio did not mention it in his first State of the City address (both mentioned homelessness for the first time in their January of 2015 speeches), though officials in both administrations said they had each made "unprecedented" commitments before the issue began to make headlines last fall.
De Blasio had announced more Safe Haven shelter beds and outreach services for unsheltered homeless people, expanded Homebase homeless prevention services, and created the LINC rental assistance program.
Ishanee Parikh, a spokeswoman for de Blasio said the administration "has made unprecedented commitments to tackling homelessness since coming into office," and that it continues "to evaluate opportunities to more effectively and efficiently get our city's homeless population the services and resources they need."
In 2011, Cuomo — who made homelessness a central part of his early political profile — stopped state funding for a city program, called the Advantage program, that gave rent assistance for homeless people to help them move out of shelter, but had increased funding for other programs that deal with homelessness and poverty in general, spending more than $100 million on rental assistance programs for other populations including programs for people with disabilities, HIV and AIDS, seniors, and to prevent eviction. (Without the state funding, then-mayor Michael Bloomberg ended the Advantage program, such that there was no longer rent assistance for people in the city's homeless shelters.)
In 2014, Cuomo proposed spending an additional $100 million for affordable housing, and last year, Cuomo acknowledged a rise in homelessness and said the state would spend an additional $220 million over the following “several years.” The state Division of Budget provided data to POLITICO New York showing that the state spent roughly $1.5 billion on homelessness-related services this fiscal year.
"Governor Cuomo has spent his entire adult life fighting homelessness and ensuring that all New Yorkers have a safe and decent place to live," said Dani Lever, a spokesperson for the governor, adding, "Over the course of his tenure, the Governor has made an unprecedented investment for homelessness and housing."
But their commitments became even more unprecedented as the feud between de Blasio and Cuomo spilled into the open, and as a perceived rise in street homelessness in New York City made it a potent political issue.
Cuomo had previously proposed splitting the cost of just 5,000 units of supportive housing over seven years, while de Blasio had proposed 12,000 units over 10 years.
After his administration questioned de Blasio's ability to manage the crisis, Cuomo's homeless plan in this year's budget calls for spending $10.4 billion over the next five years, which comes to $2.1 billion per year, an 81 percent increase from state fiscal year 2011-2012, his first budget.
De Blasio's earlier proposal for supportive housing called for the city and state to share costs of 12,000 units.
His current plan now calls for the city to pay all of the costs for all 15,000 units, at a cost of about $2.6 billion.
Officials in both administrations downplayed the notion that either was driven by politics or their ongoing rivalry.
Regardless, the increased commitment is a boon to supportive housing advocates.
"We are thrilled with the Governor's and Mayor's commitment to supportive housing," said Laura Mascuch, Executive Director at the Supportive Housing Network of New York, "they are of one mind on the issue of how to address homelessness among the most vulnerable."