On Wednesday, November 1st, 2023, Policy and Advocacy Associate Juan Diaz provided testimony to the New York City Council Committee on Oversight and Investigations. On behalf of CCC, Juan’s testimony provided a examination of the 2023 Mayor’s Management Report and housing agencies performance. The testimony highlighted severe delays in housing and public benefits services delivery and the need to fully staff housing agencies and refrain from budget cuts. Additionally, CCC provided recommendations to improve access to affordable housing and to expedite housing, homeless prevention and public benefits applications approvals.
Read the testimony below.
Testimony of Juan Diaz
Policy and Advocacy Associates
Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York
Submitted to the New York City Council Oversight Hearing on The Mayor’s Management Report: Agency Performance in Delivering Housing & Services. New York City November 1st, 2023
Since 1944, Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York has served as an independent, multi-issue child advocacy organization. CCC does not accept or receive public resources, provide direct services, or represent a sector or workforce; our priority is improving outcomes for children and families through civic engagement, research, and advocacy. We document the facts, engage, and mobilize New Yorkers, and advocate for solutions to ensure that every New York child is healthy, housed, educated, and safe.
We would like to thank Chair Brewer and all the members of the City Council Committee on Oversight and Investigations, for holding today’s important hearing on the response to the Mayor’s Management Report and concerns over housing agencies’ performance in delivering services to New Yorkers.
CCC is a steering committee member of the Family Homeless Coalition. The Family Homelessness Coalition (FHC) is comprised of formerly homeless mothers and 20 organizations representing service and housing providers and children’s advocacy organizations united to end family homelessness.
As the city experiences unprecedented housing, shelter and economic crises that disproportionally impact families with children of color, the recent Mayor Management Report (MMR) unveiled the City Administration’s failure to adequately address the needs of New York City’s most vulnerable population.
The MMR revealed serious delays in public benefits applications approvals, NYCHA vacant apartment repairs, and fewer families exiting shelters and entering affordable housing.[i] Most importantly, the MMR serves as an indicator of the need to fully staff HPD, DHS and HRA and to streamline housing applications and reduce paperwork so that families with children can remain housed and economically secure.
CCC is concerned over several MMR findings that severely impact low-income families with children housing and economic well-being:
- The number of subsidized exits (supportive housing or NYCHA/Section 8, CityFHEPS) has declined from over 6,800 in 2019 to just over 5,000 in 2023.
- The number of families with children exiting the shelter system has declined from over 9,000 in 2019 to 6,175 in 2023.
- The percentage of lottery projects that completed applicant approvals within six months decreased from 42% in FY22 to 32% in FY23.
- The median time to finalize a lease for homeless placements in set-aside units in new construction increased from 203 days in FY22 to 243 days in FY23.
- The average time to prepare a NYCHA vacant apartment for occupancy doubled from 2022, and the number of units preserved (for RAD/PACT Portfolio) went from 5,909 in 2022 to 2,597 in 2023.
- A decline in timely SNAP approvals: Only 39.7% of applications were approved within 30 days in FY23 compared to 60.1% in FY22.
- Cash assistance application timeliness rate (30 days) decreased 53.5 % in FY23 compared to FY22.
- HRA staffing is still well-below pre-pandemic levels, with 10,853 full-time employees in July, compared to 12,528 in December 2019.
The New York City Independent Budget Office noted in their testimony that HRA personnel increased by close to1.5 percent since the end of 2022, but turnover in that same period was around 16 percent.[ii] With an increase in cash assistance recipients from more than 585,000 in 2022 to 660,000 in 2023, tens of thousands of pending rental arrears applications pending, and a shelter system at full capacity, the City Administration should prioritize staff retention strategies like competitive salaries and hybrid work opportunities.
Furthermore, CCC and FHC partners call on the City Administration to exempt DSS/HRA/DHS/HPD from the Mayor’s 15% PEG and hiring freeze. The City Administration has the opportunity to improve housing and public benefits services delivery by implementing the following cost-saving alternatives:
- Prevent homelessness and expedite stable housing relocation.
- Support the effective implementation of legislation that would expand CityFHEPS eligibility that open shelter space and save the City millions of dollars in administrative and funding costs.
- Improve Public Benefit access and retention by addressing HRA staffing shortage, remove red tape, and implement technology solutions to ensure CityFHEPS payments and renewals, cash aid, and SNAP are not disrupted in transition to permanent housing.
- Work along with NYCHA to expedite vacant units’ repairs and preserve apartments for families with children in need of stable and affordable housing.
- Reject cuts to non-profit homelessness prevention and shelter services providers.
- Prioritize Access to Homebase Services by refraining from budget cuts and advocating for additional funding to expand capacity within existing programs and open new sites, and by ensuring that families in the community have access to supportive services such emergency rental assistance, housing subsidies renewals, and legal assistance to avoid shelter entrance and continue their path to housing and economic mobility.
- Implement a meaningful COLA for homeless services staff, as programs have average vacancy rates of 20% and high turnover for their lowest paying positions like housing specialists.
- Improve Timely Access to Affordable Housing
- Allow ALL families access to HPD set asides, regardless of which shelter system they are in, as promised by the Adams administration on page 51 of the Housing our Neighbors Blueprint.
- Reduce steps and streamline the process to fill vacant affordable housing units made available through Housing Connect to meaningfully reduce lease up timetables.
- Open up city-funded supportive housing to domestic violence survivors and their children.
- Maintain the right to shelter and oppose the proposed alternatives to house migrant families with children.
- The City Administration should reverse course on efforts to overturn the right to shelter and instead prioritize cost-saving solutions such as filling vacant positions to help expedite housing and public benefit applications; expediting move outs to set-aside affordable housing units; and streamlining applications for housing and public benefits.
- Reject the 60-day limit for immigrant families with children, which is a deeply concerning measure that would have wide-ranging, harmful impacts on migrant children’s education and overall well-being.
- Reverse course on the Floyd Bennett Field emergency tents for families with children. Any facility housing families with children must provide sufficient bathroom access, privacy, safety, and protection from the elements.
- Increase and Expedite Benefit Access
- Immediately ensure that The City complies with federal law by processing all SNAP applications within 30 days.
- Improve technology to public benefits (cash aid, food stamps, Medicaid, housing subsidies, childcare) applications and Access HRA by removing repetitive documentation, to expedite access and reduce red tape across benefits.
- Improve benefit access and retention policies (Prevention/Aftercare) by addressing administrative barriers ensuring adequate staffing.
Thank you for your time and consideration on this critical issue for children’s housing and economic well-being. We look forward to continuing to work with the City Council and Administration to make sure that all New York City families and children have access to the support they need on their path to socio-economic mobility.
i Mayor’s Management Report 2023. Retrieved from: https://www.nyc.gov/assets/operations/downloads/pdf/mmr2023/2023_mmr.pdf
ii Testimony of Louisa Chafee, IBO Director To The New York City Council Committee on Oversight & Investigations Wednesday, November 1, 2023.