Hotel rooms are by no means suitable for anyone who has fallen on hard times. It puts occupants in an unstable environment, and is not the right answer when addressing our city’s homelessness crisis.
Hotels are dangerous, expensive, and do not provide occupants with a real kitchen or other home amenities. On average, adult families have stayed in these shelters for nearly two years – hotel rooms are an improper home for days, let alone two years.
Furthermore, both you, Mayor de Blasio, and Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Steven Banks have gone on record saying that converting hotels to homeless shelters is the wrong approach to housing families and individuals. However, this proposal completely contradicts those sentiments.
Since you took office, three fiscal budgets have provided hundreds of millions of dollars to increase homeless services. This has allowed an increase in staffing levels and direct grants to keep families in their homes, and also enhanced the Shelter Repair Squad, which can fix violations at existing facilities.
With the additional funding and services for homeless prevention we have seen a 5 percent decrease in the daily population at New York City shelters since the December 2014 height.
Despite this decrease, homelessness continues to be a serious issue in our city. We must work together to build more affordable and permanent housing. City dollars should go towards safe, clean conditions for the homeless, and not toward converting hotels into temporary housing.
Under your new Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) zoning requirements, a minimum of 25 percent of the units constructed would be below market-rate units. There is currently no plan for more affordable housing in Community Board 5 in Queens, nor in my Council District.
We need affordable housing, not another shelter-hotel. In recent months, two real estate developers who are eager to build residential housing units in Maspeth and Woodside have approached me, looking to start a conversation about a zoning change consistent with MIH.
Furthermore, there are already three shelters within blocks of the proposed Holiday Inn site, greatly impacting the Maspeth community. The Administration’s efforts should be devoted to working with the developers, community boards, and elected officials’ offices to build affordable housing in Maspeth and the surrounding area.
This is the fiscally and socially responsible method to help those who lack the most basic of life’s necessities – a place to call their home.
Elizabeth Crowley represents the 30th District in the City Council.