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Mayor de Blasio admits homelessness cannot be eliminated immediately.

After three years of blaming his predecessor, Mayor Bloomberg, for moving so slowly on housing the homeless, Mayor de Blasio finally admitted that it will take years to house so many homeless people. Perhaps it isn't all Mayor Bloomberg's fault.
   To add a different perspective, let us take a look at New York State and its inability to commit resources to the city's problem. During the Bloomberg administration, the state cut funding to the homeless from $164 million in FY2002 to $110 million in FY2012, a 33 percent cut.  In addition, the state cut the funding to one of the few programs to permanently house the homeless, the Advantage Program. Not only did the state cut the program, but the state also passed legislation that the city could not use other state funds for the program.
   Then of course there is the federal government that has cut millions of dollars out of the public housing budget that houses so many of people in poverty. Thanks to the federal government, the New York Public Housing Authority, NYCHA, has operated in deficits for the past two decades. In addition, in 1998 an amendment was passed to the Fair Housing Act that no more subsidized units could be added to public housing. The federal government's commitment to building public housing ended in 1998.
   Sometimes when we so easily condemn local elected officials who face countless demands on a limited budget, we forget that the city is a creature of the state and as such is not the master of its own destiny.
   Now that the current mayor has discovered that housing the homeless is more difficult than he knew, he has decided to build more shelters or temporary housing. Yes, the homeless do need temporary housing but they need permanent housing much more. The mayor has committed to building or renovating 200,000 units of affordable housing.
   But there are other steps the mayor can take. The mayor could stop NYCHA from evicting people who head straight for the shelters. In addition, the mayor could stop landlords from pushing out poor people from rent regulated apartments and making them homeless, so that the landlords can charge market rates. Both of these steps could slow down the number of homeless families seeking shelter.
   The mayor could stop increasing the number of cluster-site housing units. Cluster-site housing is the city renting units in a building without services for the homeless. the landlords have discovered that the city will pay a great deal of money for apartments. Hence, some landlords will seek to push renters out of apartments so that those apartments can be rented to the city for much more money.
   The mayor has required mandatory inclusionary low-income housing in certain areas of the city if developers are seeking zoning variances. Other cities have mandatory requirements throughout the city. The mayor needs to broaden the mandate to all developers that low-income housing must be included in building new developments.


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