Nearly 500 cluster units targeted for conversion will become permanent affordable housing in early 2019
Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced that the City has made progress towards an agreement for the acquisition and conversion of nearly 500 cluster units across 17 buildings into permanent affordable housing for over 1,000 New Yorkers in need, as part of this administration’s broader initiative to address the homelessness crisis in New York City.
Over the past 18 years, New York City has used the cluster site program to provide shelter for homeless families, an ineffective stop-gap practice that the de Blasio Administration committed to ending once and for all as part of its comprehensive Turning the Tide on Homelessness in New York City plan.
“Homeless families have for decades been haphazardly sheltered in temporary accommodations that are too often poorly maintained and disconnected from services,” said Mayor de Blasio.“We’re converting these buildings into higher quality, permanent affordable housing for formerly homeless New Yorkers turning their lives around.”
“Today's unprecedented announcement means nearly five hundred families will soon wake up in homes of their own,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio. “Addressing housing instability strengthens the fabric of families and communities citywide—and this initiative represents our Administration’s unwavering dedication to ensuring that our families and children thrive.”
Last year, the City announced that it would negotiate and finance the acquisition of cluster buildings by trusted locally-based not-for-profit developers, who will work with the City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development to rehabilitate the buildings and preserve them as affordable housing. The new owners will enter into regulatory agreements with HPD to ensure the long-term affordability of the apartments as housing for homeless families and other low-income New Yorkers.
The first phase of this initiative involves 17 cluster buildings with 468 units designated for conversion to permanent housing. Homeless families would receive services and support from non-profit providers that will help them get back on their feet and transition to living independently. Joint Ownership Entity (JOE) NYC and Neighborhood Restore will be acquiring these buildings and, in conjunction with local non-profit organizations including Banana Kelly, Fifth Avenue Committee, Fordham Bedford, HELP USA, MHANY, Samaritan Village, and Settlement Housing Fund, will stabilize and manage the buildings, coordinate light-touch social services, and prepare for rehabilitation of the buildings in the near future.
Prior to acquisition closing, the cluster apartments will continue to be operated as shelter for New Yorkers experiencing homelessness with funding and services provided by the City’s Department of Homeless Services. Homeless families residing at these locations, who are eligible for rental assistance and prepared for housing permanency at the point of transition to not-for-profit ownership, will be offered the opportunity to remain as tenants with a new rent-stabilized lease if they wish to remain in the building. All non-homeless tenants living in a cluster building at the time of purchase will be entitled to remain in their apartments with rent-stabilized leases and additional protections under HPD’s regulatory agreement.
“Transforming a haphazard shelter system decades in the making demands bold action ensuring we do right by our families in need. Today's announcement furthers our commitment to closing the 18-year-old cluster program once and for all while creating permanent affordable housing for hundreds of homeless families for the long-term,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. “Working in partnership with HPD, not-for-profit developers, and service provider partners, we’re using every tool at our disposal to deliver the services, supports, and opportunities for success that hardworking New Yorkers deserve as they get back on their feet—and stay tuned for more to come.”
"Addressing the citywide challenge of homelessness requires collaborative citywide solutions. Today, with our development partners, social services partners, and City Agency partners, we’re proud to announce that our collaborative efforts are making a real difference for families in need by creating hundreds of permanent affordable apartments that will help them get back on their feet,” said Department of Homeless Services Administrator Joslyn Carter. "This announcement is a major milestone for families experiencing homelessness, who will now have the opportunity to stabilize their lives in renovated, rehabilitated homes managed by reputable not-for-profit providers—while we continue to wind down the less-effective stop-gap cluster program citywide. There's more work to be done, but our strategies are heading in the right direction, helping us raise the bar and turn the tide."
“Creating more permanent, affordable housing for homeless New Yorkers is a key goal of the Mayor's housing plan, and a critical pillar of the City's comprehensive strategy to addressing the homeless crisis," said Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer. "We are proud to partner with DSS to advance an ambitious strategy to end the cluster program, starting with plans to finance the acquisition of a 17 building portfolio with almost 730 apartments, including 468 homes for homeless New Yorkers. I want to thank the team at DSS and all our non-profit partners for working with us to ensure homeless families and low-income New Yorkers have the stability and opportunity that an affordable home provides.”
In January 2016, at the high point of the cluster program, the City was managing 3,650 cluster units to shelter homeless families. Since then, the City’s Department of Homeless Services has reduced citywide cluster use by more than 50 percent using multiple strategies. After this conversion is complete, there will be approximately 1,400 cluster units remaining, which the City will phase out entirely by 2021.
Assemblyman Marcos A. Crespo said, “There are no easy or simple solutions to addressing the needs of homeless families in New York City, but I am extremely grateful to the Mayor and the agencies involved for taking a major step forward in reducing temporary housing, particularly cluster units, and giving families permanency and stability via this creative approach. It is my hope that we continue to use resources towards permanent housing options.”
Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said: “The end of cluster site housing is a welcome relief for residents of the Bronx who have seen more than our fair share of cluster sites placed in our neighborhoods. These cluster site housing units are often host to some of the worst conditions we could imagine, with unscrupulous landlords taking advantage of homeless families in need who are frequently unable to stand up for their right to a decent place to live. I thank Mayor de Blasio for taking this important step towards ending cluster site housing and look forward to his continued leadership to ensure that people are able to find shelter space in their own communities.