Legal Aid Chief Attorney Supports City And State Effort To Create New Rental Subsidy Program To Address Homeless Crisis
MONDAY, JANUARY 27, 2014

In a Wall Street Journal article on a potential change in State budget language to enable New York City to provide rental subsidies to address the homeless crisis, Steven Banks, the Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society, said that "[o]ur hope is that the city and state will negotiate a new, more cost-effective approach to rental supplements to reduce the numbers of homeless New Yorkers." Banks added that "[i]t’s so much more cost effective to provide rental subsidies than to have an ever-expanding shelter system." The Wall Street Journal described that Society as being at the center of homeless issues for decades.

The Wall Street Journal
Cuomo Budget Doesn’t Include Rent Help for Homeless
New York City Mayor had Promised to Help Families Move out of Shelters
January 23, 2014
By Michael Howard Saul

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal specifically blocks New York City from receiving state funds to achieve another of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign promises: helping homeless families move out of city shelters.

The language, buried deep inside the proposed budget released by Mr. Cuomo on Tuesday, explicitly prohibits state reimbursements to the type of rental-subsidy program that Mr. de Blasio said he plans to develop to combat the city’s rapidly expanding homeless-shelter population.

The language signaled the second rift this week between the two leaders. On Tuesday, Mr. Cuomo firmly positioned himself against Mr. de Blasio’s pledge to increase city income taxes on New Yorkers making more than $500,000 to pay for pre-kindergarten and after-school programs. He proposed instead to fund those initiatives with existing state monies.

Refusing to back down, Mr. de Blasio said he would continue to urge Albany to permit the city to raise taxes.

Matt Wing, a spokesman for Mr. Cuomo, said the governor’s administration is open to discussing with Mr. de Blasio the creation of a new rental-subsidy program, despite the language in the governor’s budget proposal. In 2011, as state officials were scrambling to balance a $10 billion deficit, Albany cut funding for New York City’s rental-subsidy program, known as Advantage, resulting in an enormous influx in the city’s shelter population.

Mr. Wing said the governor’s budget reflects the "exact same language" as past budgets because the city hasn’t yet submitted a new proposal for a rent-subsidy program. "We will be working with the new administration on this issue in the months ahead," he said.

Marti Adams, a spokeswoman for Mr. de Blasio, said the city is facing a "homelessness crisis" and the new administration believes it is "our moral imperative to combat it."

"Rent assistance for struggling families remains a priority for the mayor," she said, adding that his administration looks forward to working with leaders in Albany to develop new programs.

The state is expected to adopt a new budget before the beginning of the state fiscal year on April 1.

During the past 12 years when Michael Bloomberg was mayor, the homeless shelter population grew 71%, to more than 53,000 people, including more than 22,000 children. In 2011, when the state stopped funding Advantage, the city lost federal funding for the program.

The Bloomberg administration decided to cancel Advantage altogether because Mr. Bloomberg said his administration couldn’t afford to fund it alone.

Started in 2007, Advantage offered help with two years of rent to move people from shelter to permanent housing. Mr. de Blasio has said he intends to develop a similar program and hopes to get state and federal funds to support it.

Steve Banks, attorney-in-chief at the Legal Aid Society, a nonprofit at the center of homeless issues for decades, said he is hopeful the governor will alter the language in the budget bill.

"Our hope is that the city and state will negotiate a new, more cost-effective approach to rental supplements to reduce the numbers of homeless New Yorkers," Mr. Banks said.

"It’s so much more cost effective to provide rental subsidies than to have an ever-expanding shelter system," he said.

Mary Brosnahan, president of the Coalition for the Homeless, an advocacy group, said: "We’re hopeful that when the mayor goes to Albany this will be high on his agenda, as it was in his campaign."