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State releases small portion of $2B promised for housing

State officials approved $150 million in funding for affordable and supportive housing, a fraction of the $2 billion in the state budget that Gov. Cuomo promised for such projects. At the end of the legislative session over the weekend, Cuomo, along with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, failed to disburse the amount that was agreed upon last March.

Photo by Diana Robinson/ Flickr
Photo by Diana Robinson/ Flickr

The $2 billion represents the first tranche of $20 billion in funding that the Governor announced in January. The full amount was earmarked for preserving or creating 100,000 units of affordable housing over the next five years. It was also meant to fund 20,000 supportive housing units for the homeless over the next 15 years.

Housing advocates dismissed the $150 million disbursement as a token amount, saying that it is “not nearly enough to make a dent” in the state’s growing homelessness problem.

“The $150 million in new money that the partial MOU provides is not nearly enough to make a dent in New York’s growing housing and homelessness crisis,” read a letter from a coalition of housing groups led by AARP, NYSAFAH and the Community Preservation Corporation. The group was referring to a memorandum of understanding that is essential to release the funds.

“We need action on a statewide housing plan right now. Every month that passes without the full MOU means New York misses out on at least 1,000 new units of affordable, senior and supportive housing. Without the release of the full $2 billion, affordable housing projects are being needlessly delayed at a time of unprecedented need. Without a statewide affordable housing plan, thousands of families will continue to suffer,” the letter read.

According to a press release from Governor’s Office, the actual figure, which includes extra costs such as tax credits, amount to $570 million. The funds will allow state officials to build 1,200 supportive housing units under the Governor’s housing and homelessness plan.

“The capital, services and operating funds will ensure timely completion of the first 1,200 units of the state plan to create 6,000 units of supportive housing over the next five years, 20,000 units of supportive housing over the next fifteen years, and creating or preserving 100,000 units of affordable housing over the next five years,” the press release read.

In an interview with the New York Times, Cuomo said that the dispersal of the first tranche of funds was standard procedure. “They don’t set aside and allocate $20 billion in year one; otherwise, it would be a one-year program,” he said. “The system cannot produce that much housing that fast, and that’s why you come up with the allocations.”

While the disbursement may seem modest whichever calculation is taken into account, there is still a chance to negotiate the full amount. Housing advocates called on officials to do just that.

“We urge Governor Cuomo, Speaker Heastie and Leader Flanagan to keep their promise to New Yorkers in need and return to the negotiating table to sign the full $2 billion MOU immediately,” the housing coalition said.

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