People become homeless for many reasons:
addiction, health and mental health challenges, domestic abuse, inadequate educational and employment opportunities, and previous institutionalization, BRC works with our clients on all these needs. But regardless of their path into homelessness, the path out for most is a home they can afford.
In New York City, the issues of homelessness and affordable housing are intertwined.
Shelter use is at an all-time high: in the single adult system the average daily census has increased 33% over the last three years and length of stay has risen 20%. A major contributing factor to this situation is the inadequate supply of housing options affordable to extremely low-income individuals.
For decades, the Federal Section 8 rental subsidy bridged the gap between the rent and what someone could afford. And because the subsidy never expired, it was frequently used to help finance the development of low-income housing, spurring thousands of units in NYC alone. Since Sequestration, Section 8 has effectively vanished, and the production pipeline of low income housing has declined dramatically.
Lack of affordable housing options for low-income individuals is one of New York City’s most defining challenges.
For our clients, and our City, the consequences have been devastating. Data from the Mayor’s Management Report show fewer exits, longer stays and higher rates of recidivism. With few other options, clients find roommates who may not be responsible, or rent rooms without the protection of a lease. When these solutions fall though, clients often end up back at the shelter, even after they made all the right moves to get out of the shelter.
There is a second problem.
To meet its legal obligation to provide temporary housing, the City has been opening shelters at a rapid rate. While this method has expanded shelter capacity, it has not addressed the primary cause of homelessness that is a lack of affordable housing. The result too often is private developers profiting from buildings they lease for use as shelters while housing for very low-income New Yorkers does not get built.
Having developed housing, we began to wonder if there was a way to cut out the middleman and turn the City’s need for shelter into a way to also solve the housing crisis. Rather than create wealth for private developers, could we use the same shelter contract to create housing for low-income people?
There is a solution.
BRC saw a problem, and created a solution, a new method of building housing affordable to very low income and formerly homeless New Yorkers by co-developing a homeless shelter and housing in on one effort. In order to make the housing affordable to New York’s poorest residents, we are using the surplus income generated by the shelter part of the building, resources that a private developer would take as profit, and re-investing it into the housing part of the building, covering the operating deficit that traditionally would have been met by Section 8.
In the Bronx, at 233/237 Landing Road (architects: Edelman Sultan Knox Woods/Architects, LLP; contractor: J Pilla Group), visible from the Major Deegan Expressway, with views of the Harlem River, is the first of what we are confident will be many such projects: a mixed-use facility that combines a brand new, purpose-built, 200-bed homeless shelter downstairs, and 135 new units of permanent housing affordable to low-income people upstairs (rent on the 111 furnished studios are less than $500/month).
The BRC model provides safe, secure and legal housing that low-income people in shelters can afford. Taken to scale, this model could create thousands of units of low-income housing and clear up the backlog in the shelters. It can help the city decrease the size of the shelter system and close down decaying and unsafe facilities where no one should have to live.
You can help us replicate this innovative and exciting project and help break the cycle of homelessness by Investing in BRC.