As rents across the city climb back toward pre-pandemic levels, low-income New Yorkers run the risk of being forced out of their homes and communities. In addition, some homeowners are struggling with the prospect of increased flooding brought on by climate change. The Trust is supporting a range of nonprofits ensuring New Yorkers have homes. We are funding efforts to preserve and create more housing, and help New Yorkers stay in their homes.
Tourism is starting to tick back up, but experts predict it will take several years before travel returns to pre-pandemic levels. The drop has led to significantly lower hotel occupancy rates. At the same time, the chronic housing shortage has worsened as people who fled the pandemic return to the city. With a grant of $60,000, New York University’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy will analyze various measures to convert low-occupancy hotels into housing. It will brief the new city administration about the best available policy tools to incorporate hotel conversions in an overall housing strategy.
Buildings that provide support services for the city’s homeless individuals—many of whom are single adults with mental-health problems—are at risk of closing due to the costs of repairs combined with higher real-estate pricing, which make selling an attractive alternative. A Trust grant of $50,000 to Supportive Housing Network of New York will preserve facilities in need of renovations so that they can continue to provide assistance and shelter. The Network will provide technical assistance to bring several buildings closer to securing funding, create a guide to city and state preservation programs for supportive housing facilities, and ensure more units enter into these programs.
As the climate crisis creates more frequent extreme weather events, vulnerable communities with fewer resources will suffer disproportionately. In 2019, The Trust gave $130,000 to Neighborhood Housing Services of Brooklyn to aid low-income homeowners in flood-prone areas of southern Brooklyn. It provided counseling on flood resiliency measures and grants and loans for renovations to mitigate future flood damage, and it connected the homeowners with prescreened contractors. It also conducted educational workshops on flood insurance policies and arranged home audits for low-income homeowners to assess risks and provide recommendations.
The nonprofit’s resiliency and insurance program manager, Elizabeth Malone, said, “because of continuing support from funders like The Trust, we were able to keep this program alive and staffed between emergencies. When Hurricane Ida hit in September, we could immediately respond and deploy resources because of the network we created—we had an ongoing connection with partners like New York City Emergency Management, volunteer agencies, mental-health providers, and others. We already had everyone in place, they knew whom to call, who we were, and what to ask.”
A $30,000 grant from our Westchester Community Foundation to Community Voices Heard will help ensure local policies prioritize low-income and working families for affordable housing. It will assess the number and types of units needed to meet local housing needs and engage low-income residents in advocacy for improved housing conditions. In addition, a resident-led team will hold elected officials accountable for preserving and increasing the number of affordable units.
On Long Island, even as many aspects of the economy return to normal, people who are homeless, living with mental illness, or experiencing poverty continue to struggle. To help these individuals and their families, The Trust’s Long Island Community Foundation gave $30,000 to Mercy Haven to provide both temporary and permanent housing and to expand support services. These services include personal development, job readiness, and mentoring programs for those who are currently homeless or at risk of homelessness.
In 2014, just one percent of tenants in Housing Court had legal representation, compared to 95 percent of landlords. The city subsequently became the first in the country to establish a right to counsel for tenants in Housing Court, leading to a significant decline in eviction rates among those with representation. But full-time workers earning the city’s minimum wage of $15 an hour still do not qualify for free representation due to income requirements. Additionally, many people who are qualified are unaware that they can get a free attorney and simply leave their housing rather than go to court alone. The Trust recently gave $75,000 to the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition to support a state bill that would require courts to notify tenants in eviction proceedings of their right to an attorney, freeze proceedings until tenants retain one, and extend this right to everyone, regardless of income. The Coalition will meet with city officials and arrange testimony, build a larger statewide coalition of at least 65 organizations, and run a media campaign to advocate for the bill’s passage.
In November, former Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city’s program for ensuring lowincome renters facing eviction can receive free legal help in Housing Court was both a success and ahead of schedule, calling it “a national model for increasing housing stability and preventing homelessness.”
In 2020, the mayor said, 100 percent of tenants with eviction cases on the court calendar had access to legal services and 71 percent had full representation, compared with 1 percent in 2013 before the program began.
The citywide expansion of the program was completed in 2021, a year early. Eighty-four percent of represented tenants were able to stay in their homes.
The quick success of this program is thanks, in part, to a grant from The Trust to New York Law School to train managers of the new attorneys hired to represent tenants. This past year, The Trust made a grant to the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition to advocate for expanding the eligibility requirements so more low-income tenants could participate.
Since 2014, the eviction prevention program has provided more than 500,000 New Yorkers with legal services in Housing Court.
This update ran in our Winter 2022 Grants Newsletter.