Legal Aid Maintains Call for Supportive Housing, a “Proven Cost-Effective Solution to Homelessness”

Supportive housing, which offers stable, permanent housing with onsite services, is a “proven cost-effective solution to homelessness for individuals and families living with a disabling mental illness or other disability,” The Legal Aid Society told city lawmakers on Thursday. As a result, Legal Aid maintained its insistence that Governor Andrew Cuomo and state legislators release nearly $2 billion in funding, which will go towards a long-term state commitment to build 20,000 supportive housing units over the next 15 years.

New York City is facing a homelessness crisis, underscored by the fact that, on average, almost 63,000 men, women and children slept in shelters every night in November. The figure is an all-time record. Homeless people suffer from severe mental illness at rates greater than the general population, but Legal Aid noted supportive housing can link individuals with extra assistance. The housing can also save taxpayers more than $10,000 per unit through the reduced use of shelters, hospitals, psychiatric facilities and jails, as well as the improvement of property values in surrounding neighborhoods.

“We continue to call on the Governor and legislative leaders to release this money immediately so the critical work of building state-funded supportive housing can begin in earnest,” Josh Goldfein, a Staff Attorney in the Civil Practice’s Homeless Rights Project, said in written testimony, joined by Giselle Routhier, Policy Director at the Coalition for the Homeless. The pair submitted their testimony to the New York City Council Committee on General Welfare and the Committee on Housing and Buildings.

City officials are on track this year to open the first 500 units of a pledge by Mayor Bill de Blasio to build 15,000 supportive housing units, Goldfein and Routhier said. Yet while the state has made some conditional awards for some units, Governor Cuomo “has thus far failed to follow through on the commitment.”

Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo committed to building an overall 35,000 supportive housing units following the Campaign 4 NY/NY’s “steadfast advocacy.” The past creation of supportive housing in New York City has come through a series of multi-year City-State agreements. Goldfein and Routhier said “record homelessness highlights the extreme urgency of the need” for the state to release the promised money.