New York City Mayor Eric Adams ran for office promising to create more affordable housing and initiate economic development for the city. Has he kept his promises since entering office in January 2022? How has the Mayor addressed the city’s rising homeless population and the lack of affordable housing across all boroughs?
New York City’s housing crisis is at its worst point in decades, arguably in the worst condition ever. Currently, half of the city’s households spend 30% of their income on rent and around one-third of households spend 50%. Most fiscal experts recommend spending no more than 30% of income on rent, but when you live in New York City, where the current average rent is $2,750 and the average income is around $50,000, that is practically impossible.
The city’s housing crisis and lack of affordable housing is not a new problem, rather it is one that has been in the making for decades. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the issue as it has brought hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers to the brink of homelessness by being extremely rent-burdened. Those who were already experiencing the burdens of the housing crisis before the pandemic are now much more likely to lose their jobs and homes due to the rising unemployment levels caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Around 34% of New Yorkers earning less than $50k a year claimed that either they or someone they knew had lost their jobs during just the first couple of weeks of the pandemic according to a study done by the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. This survey only reported on job loss during the first couple of weeks of the pandemic. COVID-19 restrictions, including social distancing and quarantine, made the rate of job loss among lower-income families drastically increase over the course of the pandemic. Over half of lower-income families have suffered from job loss or wage cuts due to the pandemic. Many of these families were already rent-burdened before the pandemic and the economic tolls of COVID-19 have only exacerbated the issue.
Mayor Adam’s major initiative in addressing the housing crisis is his proposal to create a “City of Yes.” This is part of a joint investment with the City Council of $32 billion in affordable housing over the next ten years. Adams asserts that the solution to the lack of affordable housing options across the city is to build more housing. The goal of fostering a “City of Yes” is to make the production of affordable housing easier and faster while also creating a more environmentally friendly city and job opportunities across the boroughs. In a press release from the Mayor’s office, Mr. Adams discussed in more detail his plan to support the city economically and create more affordable housing. “These proposals focused on economic recovery, affordable housing, and sustainability will remove red tape for small businesses, expand housing opportunities in every neighborhood, and accelerate the transition to our energy future. New Yorkers are not going to wait around while other cities and other countries sprint towards a post-pandemic world, and now we won’t have to.” Mayor Adams outlined his vision for the “City of Yes” in a release from the Mayor’s office in the beginning of June. The proposal encompasses three city-wide zoning amendments that focus on supporting local small businesses, alleviating environmental concerns, and increasing the overall number of housing options. Their goal is to create more jobs, reduce the city’s carbon footprint, and increase the number of available and affordable housing options. The Mayor hopes to directly work with the city and with communities to foster economic development and to make these changes. At the end of September of this year, Mayor Adams worked with the City Council to pass a new affordable housing project in Astoria, Queens. This will create over 1,300 homes, with 335 of those being affordable housing. This is a major advancement for the Mayor’s office in advancing their “City of Yes” proposal, but there is still a long way to go.
In recent news regarding the housing crisis and homeless population, Mayor Adams has declared a migrant emergency on Friday, October 7th due to the recent influx of migrants into NYC homeless shelters. At least nine buses of asylum seekers have arrived in New York City and are expected to increase the shelter population to above 100,000. This drastically surpasses the previous record set in 2019 of around 61,000 in the shelters at one time. By declaring a state of emergency, Mayor Adams is urging for both state and federal help in addressing this crisis. It also allows the Mayor to easily open emergency relief shelters across the city including a recent plan for a tent city on Randall’s Island. The New York City Council and city residents immediately attacked and rejected the idea claiming that the location is dangerous and inhospitable due to flood risks and decreasing temperatures. Originally, the Mayor had started construction on a tent city for migrants on Orchard Beach in the Bronx but this plan received even more criticism. Dozens of Bronx residents rejected this idea and gathered at the site in protest. The protestors raised concerns about the potential for flooding issues at Orchard Beach as well as safety concerns for themselves and their families who live in the community. There were concerns about potential increases in crime in the area as well as exacerbating the scarcity of local resources in a low-income neighborhood. Mayor Adams listened to the concerns voiced by city residents and is planning to relocate 500 of the 16,000 migrants in NYC to a new shelter on Randall’s Island. The Mayor’s office does hope to increase the capacity of the new site from 500 to 1,000 but it is primarily focusing on its completion in the same timeframe as the original Orchard Beach site. Though the new site on Randalls Island is not perfect, as there are still concerns about the weather and the distance from public transportation, it is a step in the right direction.
The recent migrant influx into New York City has only exacerbated the issues of homelessness and the lack of affordable housing available. Mayor Eric Adams came into office at a time of economic uncertainty, high unemployment levels, and amid the ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic. He inherited all of the underlying issues that came with this as he took office less than a year ago. Mayor Adams has made great strides to address the devastating effects of the affordable housing crisis but he still has a long way to go if he hopes to hold true to his campaign promises.