New York’s shelter system faces a test of historic proportions after Texas Governor Greg Abbott made the ruthless and cruel decision to send busloads of asylum seekers to our city. As a former undocumented person who has seen the flaws in our system fail for both working-class immigrants and families, I know our city can do more on the housing front to ensure these families can arrive. on a stable basis and that working families can prosper. in New York long term.
The reality is that New York is unprepared for a real estate emergency of this magnitude. New York’s homeless shelters are under strain, with a vacancy rate below 1%. Families facing eviction have nowhere to turn. Mayor Adams likes to suggest that the crisis began with Abbott’s ruthless stunt. But while Abbott’s actions have undoubtedly exacerbated it, it is a crisis on the mayor’s part that began long before this week.
For months, housing experts have warned that our accommodation system will face unprecedented pressure this summer. In January, as Adams took office, the state’s eviction moratorium ended. Predictably, evictions began to ramp up soon after, turning into a flood in recent months. So many eviction cases are filed that there aren’t even enough lawyers to represent all the tenants taking their cases to court.
Meanwhile, rents in New York are at record highs. Here in Brooklyn, rents have climbed nearly 15% since 2021, as pandemic-era deals end and residents return to the city. We are in a housing crisis that our mayor and our state have willfully ignored.
In response, Adams has either turned a blind eye to the housing emergency in our city or actively escalated the situation. In June, the Rent Guidelines Board, newly filled with a host of Adams appointees, approved the biggest rise in regulated rents in a decade, ignoring protests from tenants and housing advocates. And thanks in part to a historic staffing shortage in city government, rental vouchers for low-income families at shelters are becoming harder to come by, meaning families spend more time in shelters.
Instead of taking substantial action to alleviate the pain tenants face, Adams turned to performative measures, conducting a series of flashy sweeps targeting homeless encampments and people living in our subway system. . These displays of power have only served to provide the mayor with photo opportunities while doing nothing to alleviate the stress of homeless people living in and entering our shelter system.
If the Adams administration really wanted to solve our housing crisis, it could take a number of steps. In the immediate term, the administration could dramatically increase the capacity of shelters, especially Safe Haven shelters which provide a safer alternative to traditional homeless shelters. The administration could also make efforts to help people in shelters move to permanent accommodation more quickly.
But as a longer-term solution, Adams could commit to freezing rents for the coming year to relieve tenants of rising rents. And he could throw his weight behind the Good Cause Bill, state legislation that would protect tenants from exorbitant rent increases and unfair evictions. This would ensure that New York City is not only a welcoming place for immigrants when they arrive in New York, but it would allow our immigrant communities to thrive here in the long term by increasing the availability of affordable housing and stable.
Adopting these solutions would force Adams to confront the wealthy landlords and property developers who helped him into office. But it’s in his own interest. The mayor campaigned on a pledge to keep the city safe, and his ability to do so will determine whether he remains in office. There is a wealth of data showing that protecting residents from evictions leads to safer neighborhoods.
One thing is clear: pointing fingers at other states will not solve the problem. This crisis should be a wake-up call that band-aids and PR stunts aren’t working. It’s time for the Mayor to address the roots of our homelessness and housing crisis and find solutions that ensure all New Yorkers, including our new immigrants, have access to safe and secure housing. affordable, once and for all.
Mitaynes represents Sunset Park, Red Hook and Bay Ridge in the State Assembly.