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City Council holds joint on housing, homelessness and safety

AmNews Staff Reports | 11/22/2017, 6:53 a.m.
Earlier this week, Council Member Jumaane Williams , Deputy Leader and Chair of Council's Housing and Buildings Committee, and Council ...

Earlier this week, Council Member Jumaane Williams , Deputy Leader and Chair of Council's Housing and Buildings Committee, and Council Member Stephen, Chair of the Committee on General Welfare held a hearing on two bills that relate to housing and homelessness.

The first, Intro 1524, is sponsored by By Council Member Rafael Salamanca, Jr., Council Member James Vacca and Council Member Vincent Gentile, and introduced at the request of the Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. It would require DHS to inspect radiators during any inspection related to health, safety, or the physical conditions of a homeless shelter. The necessity of such legislation was made clear last year, when two young girls were tragically killed when their radiator malfunctioned and scalded them.

The second, Intro 1529, sponsored by Council Member Vacca, Council Member Corey Johnson, and Council Member Salamanca and again, introduced at the request of Bronx Borough President Diaz would require DHS to report to the Council and post on its website information about its plans to phase-out the existing stock of cluster site shelters. The Mayor announced at the beginning of 2016 that the sites would be phased out within three years.

In addition to these bills, the committees also heard testimony on oversight of how the Department of Housing Preservation and Development works with the Department of Homeless Services and the Human Resources Administration on the homelessness crisis. The committees sought to learn about HPD's current programs to help alleviate the homelessness crisis and how it can better coordinate with DHS and HRA to ensure that more families and individuals are provided with adequate services that will enable them to successfully transition from homelessness into affordable housing.

The Committees explored what role HPD could play in encouraging affordable housing providers to accept formerly homeless individuals and families with rental subsidies into their units, including what steps the agency is taking to require developments to set aside a percentage of the affordable units for formerly homeless individuals and families.

"Affordable housing and homelessness are part of the same crisis, and need to be part of the same conversation," said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams. "This crisis is a public health and wellness issue and, and we need to address it on all fronts and across all disciplines, using every tool available to us in the toolbox. To this end, it is absolutely essential that we work together across committees and across departments in government, and I'm glad to collaborate with Chair Levin to effect meaningful progress in these areas and improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers."