May 16, 2023
On March 16, 2023, Introduction 124-A (2022) which was originally proposed by Council Member Rafael Salamanca Jr. was officially passed by the NYC Council. On April 16, 2023, it was officially enacted as Local Law 45. The new law requires the Human Resources Administration to designate housing specialists within all temporary shelters and to submit an annual report on housing specialists, ensuring that New Yorkers residing in shelters have access to housing specialists.
Local Law 45 also updates requirements for housing specialists in the Department of Homeless Services transitional housing facilities. Specifically, Homeless Services will submit an annual report including the number of all temporary shelters; the number of housing specialists within all temporary shelters, disaggregated by district and type of shelter; the average caseload of housing specialists within each temporary shelter; and the goals and timetables by which the commissioner shall assess the performance of housing specialists.
On September 13, 2022, Council Member Salamanca Jr. expressed the community need for shelter housing specialists during the Committee on General Welfare public hearing. He testified that the Family Homelessness Coalition Fellows and families in shelter had expressed serious concerns over the lack of effective communication and timely assistance from shelter housing specialists. He testified that the “[C]urrent housing specialists carry unmanageable caseloads, which prevents them from assisting families with apartment search guidance and quick inspection once a family is connected to an apartment.”
Conversely, the Homeless Services United testified on its concern of the lack of resources for funding to support the new reporting requirement. Housing Services United testified that it was supportive of ensuring housing specialists in shelter, as they already served a critical role in Department of Homeless Single and Family Shelters, but this bill would require additional funding to hire housing specialists in HIV/AIDS Services and domestic violence shelters. A number of other homelessness initiatives also stated the need for additional funding to ensure compliance with the bill.
Marricka Scott-McFadden, Deputy Commissioner for Intergovernmental and Legislative Affairs testified on behalf of the New York City Department of Social Services and was reluctant to accept the duplicative nature of the bill. Marricka Scott-McFadden testified that “Department of Homeless Shelters are already funded to provide housing specialists on-site as part of the model budget. Further, the requirements of the bill would be duplicative of its current work.” She ended by stating that the Department of Social Services looks forward to further understanding the bill’s intent and cost consideration must be considered for any additional requirements placed on agencies.
However, Local Law 45 was unanimously passed by 48 council members. The Legal Aid Society supported the need for well-trained housing specialists with manageable caseloads as being a critical resource for helping people move from shelters into permanent housing. Additionally, public testimony supported the community need for qualified housing specialists.
Local Law 45 will go into effect 120 days from the effective date on April 16th.
By: Marlo Mitchell (Marlo is a New York Law School student, Class of 2023.)