New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) is hoping to bring down the city's record-high homelessness with the creation of a new rental subsidy program -- a move that comes nearly three years after his predecessor shut down a similar assistance strategy.
WNYC reports that according to a draft proposal sent to Albany in March, the program could cost up to $115 million a year by its fifth year of operation, expenses the city is hoping to share with the state.
While city officials would not comment on the report, citing the proposal as a work in progress, WNYC reports the initial draft shows the de Blasio administration aims to provide 1,400 to 2,800 families with subsidies. One member of the family will need to be employed full-time to qualify; the family would then be able to receive up to $1,100 for an apartment that costs $1,500 monthly.
The project details are revealed on the heels of a significant change of language within the state's budget that will allow the use of state funds for the city subsidy program. The shift, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) made just days before the state budget was due April 1, has been applauded by advocates as an important and necessary step in combatting the homelessness crisis.
The city's homeless population has surged over the years with more than 53,000 people recorded as living in shelters in January, levels not seen since the Great Depression.
In 2011, then-mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) alarmed homeless advocates with the decision to terminate Advantage, an assistance program he began in 2007 to help move shelter residents to subsidized apartments, after Cuomo cut funding for the program during a state budget crunch.
Since the cancellation of Advantage, homelessness numbers have skyrocketed and advocates have called upon the city to reinstate a similar initiative.
De Blasio, who ran on a largely progressive campaign vowing to end income inequality in New York, had waged a rather public, seemingly uphill battle against Cuomo to remove the restrictive language in the state's budget.
"Unless we have a real subsidy program that is fully funded and matched with some permanent housing solutions, we are going to see an increase in the shelter population," New York City Council member Steve Levin told Capital New York last month. "Where we are today is terrible. Where we will be in a year if this is not removed from the state budget is going to be even worse."