Our Mission and Prior Success
Housing First! was founded in 2001 as a coalition of organizations dedicated to addressing the chronic lack of affordable and supportive housing in New York City and New York State. By bringing together community, business, labor, civic, and religious organizations—especially the disparate organizations within the affordable housing community—we have raised awareness of this crisis and successfully sought commitments of government and private sector resources to end it.
We quickly grew to include over 300 member organizations that coalesced around a platform that called for $10 billion of government investment in affordable housing over ten years to create and preserve 185,000 units in New York City. In 2005 the coalition expanded to include organizations across the entire State of New York.
And we were successful. HF! was instrumental in securing over $16 billion in funding for affordable housing from the city and state. This includes New York City’s commitment of $8.5 billion in financing for 165,000 units of housing over ten years through the New Housing Marketplace Plan, state capital funding and bond financing, and the dedication of Battery Park City surplus revenues to affordable housing.
At the same time, Housing First! has been a media voice for affordable housing. Also, its unique ability to gather together a wide array of organizations has encouraged new collaborations and partnerships, making New York’s highly experienced affordable housing sector even more effective.
Addressing the Need
Despite our successes and those of our partners, the supply of affordable housing in the City and State remains at a critically low level. This chronic shortage has been greatly exacerbated by current economic conditions. Homelessness is at record levels. According to the Center for Housing Policy, 59% of low income New Yorkers spend more than half of their incomes on housing, making it virtually impossible for them to break the cycle of poverty. And while the New Housing Marketplace program will have added or preserved nearly 165,000 units in New York City by 2014, an almost equal number of units have been lost due to market forces, physical deterioration, and the expiration of older government programs.
While this crisis in housing affordability affects everything from education (living in crowded or substandard housing affects school achievement) to economic development (housing construction and preservation creates jobs), it goes on largely unseen and under-discussed in the media and even among elected officials. Even within the affordable housing community the wide range of constituencies can serve to erode the larger message that we all share: New York City’s affordable housing community has the programs, the private investors, and the capacity to get the job done, but they will need substantial levels of public investment to succeed.
When the New Housing Marketplace completes its last unit in 2014, an enormous need will still remain. But what will follow it? Will public investment in affordable housing continue to remake lives for low and moderate income New Yorkers, by providing decent and affordable places to live and creating tens of thousands of jobs in the process? As the race for the 2013 mayoral election begins, HF! is gearing up to see that the answer to that question is a resounding “Yes!”
This broad coalition seeks a commitment from the next mayor to strengthen New York City by building upon our long history of completing some of the nation’s most innovative and effective affordable housing development initiatives. Over the next eight years, the Housing First! Plan lays out the roadmap to develop and preserve 150,000 units of affordable housing. It encourages more market-rate housing development, stabilizes New York City’s public housing and homeownership, addresses homelessness, and rebuilds after Hurricane Sandy. It achieves this with an $8 billion, seven point plan:
- Build 60,000 new affordable homes in multifamily rental buildings, homeownership, senior and supportive housing, by increasing and redirecting City capital investment;
- Preserve the affordability of 90,000 apartments at risk of loss due to expiring rent restrictions and/or physical deterioration;
- Facilitate an increase in both affordable and market rate housing development by reforming zoning and other building regulations, and use these changes to leverage the creation of affordable units without public capital subsidies;
- Strengthen the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to preserve and improve public housing;
- Support affordable homeownership and help households at risk of foreclosure to stay in their homes;
- Address the housing needs of homeless families and individuals, seniors and other vulnerable people, with targeted rent subsidies and supportive housing; and,
- Rebuild a resilient city in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
The Housing First! Plan is ambitious, but achievable. It builds upon almost $4 billion already allocated to affordable housing development over the next eight years in the City’s current capital projections, while leveraging more than $1.2 billion in State housing funds. It identifies new sources of capital and operating funds, as well as strategies to employ zoning and tax incentives more efficiently. The additional $2.8 billion in new capital resources combined with existing funds will leverage $15 billion more in private funds, federal tax credits and private activity bonds. The additional $4.3 billion in new resources will leverage even more in private, state and federal funds. A total City investment of $8 billion will not only help address New York’s housing affordability crisis, it will also generate over $21.2 billion in economic activity.[i]
[i] HR&;A 2012 finds that the development of 108,683 housing units between 2003-2010 in New York City generated $32.5 billion in economic spending.