Keeping Track: Housing Instability & Homelessness in New York City

Digital Briefs

February 18, 2016

Budget discussions at the city, state and federal level have brought renewed focus to the housing crisis in New York City.

Just last week, President Obama announced that his 2017 budget includes a proposal to spend $11 billion over the next 10 years on family homelessness, with New York City intended to receive a significant share.

Last month, Mayor de Blasio announced that over 41,000 units of affordable housing, including 21,000 units in 2015, have been financed since he took office in January 2014. These affordable housing units are part of a ten year plan aimed at expanding and preserving 200,000 units for low and middle income households. In addition, the City has committed to increase existing resources designed to support families leaving the shelter system and increase supportive housing by 15,000 units over the next 15 years.

In his State of the State and Executive Budget Address in January, Governor Cuomo also made several proposals aimed at reducing homelessness, including the creation of 18,000 new supportive housing beds over the next 15 years and increasing the number of emergency shelter beds in New York State.

In addition, in her State of the City address last week New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito called on all levels of government to do more to address homelessness, including calling on the City and State to accelerate their commitments to develop supportive housing. The Speaker additionally called on the City to create a permanent rental subsidy program to prevent families from re-entering shelter and to allocate more public housing units each year for homeless families. She also called on the federal government to expand access to Section 8 rental subsidies for low-income families, and on the State to increase the minimum wage to $15 and provide funding for a permanent rental subsidy program.

The data make clear that these are important actions that must be taken to support families that are struggling to make ends meet in the wake of the great recession. Despite recent progress, family homelessness is still at crisis levels in New York City, with record numbers of children living in shelters for increasingly longer periods of time.

Housing BlogAverage Length of StayNot surprisingly, the increase in families with children living in homeless shelters has coincided with a stagnation of median incomes and continued increase of rental costs over the last decade.

Median Income for Families with ChildrenThe challenges were deepened by the economic downturn, in which New York City experienced a decrease in median income and an increase in unemployment. While the City and boroughs have experienced improvements in unemployment rates over the past three years, median incomes have not kept pace suggesting that many of these gains in employment are for low-wage jobs.


Further exacerbating matters, rental costs have continued to rise – in part because the City has maintained a relatively low rental vacancy rate across the five boroughs. The short supply of vacant renter-homes has increased demand and put greater pressure on rental prices.

Median Monthly RentCitywide, median monthly rent has increased by 12%, from $1,036 in 2008 to $1,160 in 2014. With median incomes falling and median rents increasing households have seen a larger portion of their income going toward rent.

In 2014, 29.9% of all rental households in New York City were severely rent-burdened, meaning they were spending 50% or more of their income on rent. Of the over 613,000 renter households that were severely rent burdened, 73% had annual household incomes of less than $25,000. More than 307,000 children lived in one of these low-income and high-rent-burdened households.

Addressing the Housing Crisis in NYC

As the budget processes unfold at all levels of government, CCC will continue to advocate to ensure that New York City has the funding necessary to put measures in place to address these challenges.

At the City level, this includes:

  • Ensuring that as the City moves forward with rezoning efforts in an effort to expand availability of Affordable Housing that special attention is paid to meeting the needs of the lowest earners among the existing members of those communities.
  • Supporting efforts to expand availability of supportive housing in New York City and ensuring there are units set aside for vulnerable populations, including families with children and youth aging out of foster care.
  • Supporting efforts to expand availability of rental subsidies, public housing units, and other options for affordable housing that could assist low-income families and families leaving homeless shelter.
  • Ensuring every shelter facility is safe and clean.

At the State level, this includes:

  • Supporting the Governor’s Executive Budget proposals to add 18,000 units of supportive housing.
  • Advocating to increase the shelter allowance for public assistance recipients in order to help these individuals and families maintain stable housing.
  • Continuing to advocate for a more equitable partnership between the State and City regarding the resources available to support New York City’s homeless families and individuals.

You can help us advocate for NYC’s children and families by joining our e-action network.

In addition, learn more about the data highlighted above and many more indicators related to well-being of children and families in New York City on Keeping Track Online.

Interested in learning more about how these conditions impact New Yorkers at the community level? Read part two of this blog, which explores housing and homelessness in specific community districts using CCC’s Keeping Track Online database.

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