Shola Olatoye, Chairwoman and Chief Executive Officer of the New York City Housing Authority, told the City Council today her agency—on orders from the de Blasio administration—would not set aside more than 1,250 units for the city’s mushrooming indigent population.
Ms. Olatoye, whom Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed to oversee the sprawling network of 2,563 buildings, said the administration was only willing to allot 750 units for homeless people and 500 for those living in transitional housing. Several civilians affiliated with the Coalition for the Homeless sat in the audience holding signs reiterating the advocacy group’s call for NYCHA to allocate 2,500 units for the 60,000 New Yorkers using the shelter system each night.
“The administration has made a determination, and these are the numbers we are working with,” she said. “I think we have met, we have the exact number, our commitment, the number that’s on the table with the resources we have at this moment, is the number we can commit to.”
Mr. de Blasio ended former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s policy of not allowing any homeless persons to obtain public housing, but advocates insist the current set-aside is still too small to address the crisis.
“I think we should look into our portfolio a little bit more in this particular area, where we try to increase the number of units that are available to homeless families. We do have a crisis,” Queens Councilman Donovan Richards said today.
Under questioning from Mr. Richards and Bronx Councilman Ritchie Torres, Ms. Olatoye had initially noted that changing the policy to allocate greater space for the homeless would require the approval of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development—but finally had to acknowledge that such permission would likely not be hard to get.
“I want to be clear, this is not HUD tying NYCHA’s hands, NYCHA has made a determination,” Mr. Torres said.
Ms. Olatoye pointed out that the housing authority has a waiting list of 250,000 families and a vacancy rate of .7 percent, with only 5,000 units opening up each year. She also argued that dealing with the homelessness crisis cannot fall solely on her agency.
The chairwoman said NYCHA placed homeless persons into 750 public housing units last year, and into an additional 280 subsidized Section 8 apartments.
“This is more than any other part of the city is doing to address this crisis,” she said. “We are just one part of this.”