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Housing cuts would exacerbate inequality

By Laura Mascuch, Kristin Miller, Jolie Milstein and Barika Williams, Wed, Jun 24th, 2020 2:05:40 am
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New York Daily News: Housing cuts would exacerbate inequality
By Laura Mascuch, Kristin Miller, Jolie Milstein and Barika Williams

New Yorkers across the five boroughs are stepping up more than ever before to take action against systemic racial injustice — and we all know that housing is a central part of the equation. That's why so many advocates are deeply concerned by New York City's proposal to cut 40% of its capital housing budget, which will take much-needed affordable and supportive housing away from the low-income communities of color who need it most.

It's no secret that black New Yorkers have historically made up an overwhelming share of our state's homeless population; here in the city, nearly 70% of the 80,000 individuals experiencing homelessness at any given time are black.

These issues have only been heightened due to the pandemic. Nearly 2 million New Yorkers have filed for unemployment since April, and black New Yorkers have been hit hardest. It is inevitable that the already high percentage of families who will struggle to pay rent each month will only increase, even as we recover.

In other words, now is the time to redouble — not shrink — efforts to develop and preserve affordable and supportive housing. The need was tremendous before COVID, it is exponentially more so now.

The 40% cut to the Housing Preservation and Development's (HPD) budget translates to a loss of 21,000 affordable apartments, including 3,000 supportive apartments over the next two years alone. And again, the people whose homes these would have been are overwhelmingly people of color. And as the pandemic showed us all too clearly, with the vast majority of fatalities and cases among people of color, quality affordable housing is inextricable from health care.

Moreover, the capital cuts will also result in a loss of up to 22,000 jobs in a construction industry that provides local employment opportunities for communities of color — again, those that have been hardest hit by massive job loss.

Meanwhile, the failure to create affordable and supportive housing will end up costing the city much more: homelessness has always been more expensive than housing — in shelter costs, in overuse of health care and institutional settings. And these costs will fall primarily on the city.

Halting the development pipeline also sends a signal to investors that government is not committed to affordable/supportive housing development, a trust it will take years to rebuild.

The inequalities baked into so many of America's systems were laid starkly bare these last three months — so much so that no one could avoid seeing how unjust our housing, health and corrections systems are. We cannot, in the face of these inexorable truths, turn away from the need to create housing and jobs for communities of color at this critical time. The budget is a moral document, reflecting what our city deems worthy of investment. Housing and jobs for black and brown New Yorkers need to be top of the list.


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