Also: San Diego will give at-risk seniors $500 a month for housing and more.
New York Legislature revises hotels to housing plan
Before taking office, New York City Mayor Eric Adams touted a plan to convert 25,000 units of vacant hotel rooms across the city into supportive housing, half of which would be prioritized for people homeless. This plan, which was made possible through a state program called the Housing Our Neighbors with Dignity Act (HONDA), had significant hurdles, as Next City reported last year. Among them were onerous zoning and building code restrictions that made it difficult for many hotels to convert. As a result, the city had no received only one application for the program since two months.
That could soon change. Governor Kathy Hochul enacted zoning reforms to address some of these concerns and expedite the conversion of these hotels. Changes will allow the conversion of hotels located in manufacturing areas, provided they are within 400 feet of a residential area. They also remove the requirement to request a new occupancy certificate on conversation, a regulatory hurdle that can drag on for months.
But some fear the plan has missed its window of opportunity. Supportive housing providers had urged the city and state to initiate reforms last year when hotels lay vacant and unused due to the pandemic, but tourism has started to rebound in New York. According city limits, 83% of hotel rooms in the city were occupied as of May 20.
There are other hurdles: City Limits reports that the city’s Hospitality Trades Council opposes the conversion of many large hotels that employ its members, preferring to hand over smaller, dilapidated hotels. HONDA legislation grants the union veto power over hotel conversions.
New York Mayor Adams releases housing plan
The hotel’s conversion plan is among the items mentioned in a housing plan released by Mayor Eric Adams on June 14. The plan is nearly 100 pages and outlines the issues of the housing crisis and the approach the Adams administration wishes to pursue, but is unfortunately light on specific commitments or dollar amounts.
Among the ideas in the document are a public housing plan that would decentralize building management by funding neighborhood-level property managers. Adams’ plan also includes a wide range of funding sources to facilitate public housing repairs, including a preservation trust, private building management and the sale of unused NYCHA land to private developers, all strategies. which have been controversial with residents of social housing. The plan also promotes the authorization of more ADUs as well as the continuation of the legalization of the basement, a pilot project for which had been financed during the de Blasio administration. Adams also plans to fully fund the city’s vouchers for people exiting homelessness, called cityFHEPS, an item that was included in NYC’s recently passed budget.
San Diego City Council approves $500 payments for seniors at risk of homelessness
The San Diego City Council voted on June 14 to include a $500-a-month rent subsidy for certain populations facing homelessness, including seniors, people with disabilities, and families with children. KPBS reports. Money from the city’s Housing Stability Fund will be available to 300 households over a two-year period and includes $3.6 million in funding.
According to a report published by the nonprofit Serving Seniors of San Diego, a quarter of homeless adults in San Diego are over the age of 55 and 40% are facing homelessness for the first time in their lives. The nonprofit surveyed 192 seniors who had experienced or were at risk of homelessness and found that 56% said monthly payments of $300 would have been enough to keep them in their homes.
Chicago Housing Authority approves private football fields where housing once stood
According to a investigation Per ProPublica and Chicago Tonight/WTTW News, Chicago’s public housing authority will lease 26 acres of land to develop a practice facility for the Chicago Fire Football Club, a football team owned by billionaire Joe Mansueto. The leased land has been vacant for nearly 20 years, but once housed four public housing estates housing 3,600 families. Two of the buildings were razed in 2003 as part of a plan to build new mixed-use housing consisting of 2,441 new units and 455 rehabilitated units. Only 667 new homes were built and rehabilitated homes have since deteriorated, according to the report.
The investigation found that the housing authority received $60 million in federal funds to demolish and rehabilitate buildings in the 1990s after the units deteriorated too much to repair. Tenants were evicted and promised the opportunity to return to rehabilitated homes, similar to what happened to housing estates in the United States during the federal government’s underwriting of “urban renewal” in the 1950s and 1960. According to ProPublica, fewer than 800 families were able to return and more than 2,000 families were deemed ineligible.
The sale of land to the Chicago Fire football team is part of an ongoing development plan that has seen the Chicago Housing Authority lease land to be used as a police station, Target, film production house and academy of tennis, according to the survey.
Roshan Abraham is Next City’s housing correspondent and a former Equitable Cities Fellow. He is based in Queens. Follow him on Twitter at @roshantone.