Heard Around Town

Adams shouldn’t cut housing agency budgets, advocates say

Developers and homeless service providers united against the New York City mayor’s budget cut plans.

New York Mayor Eric Adams

New York Mayor Eric Adams Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

When New York Mayor Eric Adams is making budget cuts, he should hold off on housing agencies. That’s what more than 70 housing stakeholder organizations – real estate developers, homeless service providers and advocates for low income New Yorkers among them – are saying in a letter sent to Adams and Budget Director Jacques Jiha Wednesday.

“The consequences will be severe for countless New Yorkers across the five boroughs,” if cuts are made, the letter reads in part. “These cuts will extend affordable housing construction timelines and project approvals, delay housing assistance and ultimately prevent New Yorkers from accessing the safe, affordable housing they deserve. This is an unacceptable outcome.”

Adams asked city agencies to find savings of 4% of their city-funded operating budgets this month. But member organizations like the New York Housing Conference and the New York State Association for Affordable Housing, which led the letter, as well as the Real Estate Board of New York and Coalition for the Homeless, are saying some agencies should be exempted from cuts. That includes the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the Department of Buildings, the Department of City Planning, the Department of Homeless Services and the Human Resources Administration.

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Agencies like HRA are already short staffed, the letter notes. Just 19% of food stamp applications were processed by HRA within the mandated 30 days in December, an Adams administration official testified Wednesday. 

The letter appeals to Adams by saying his “ambitious and necessary goal to create 500,000 new homes in the next decade will not succeed” if he proceeds with the reduced budget.

That plan may be jeopardy for other reasons, as Gov. Kathy Hochul’s plan to incentivize housing construction, including tax breaks for developers, continues to face pushback from the Legislature.

In response to the letter, a City Hall spokesperson noted that the Adams administration has put more in the capital budget for housing than ever before – though that is separate from the agency operating budgets that the letter focuses on – and it is streamlining the land use process with the “Get Stuff Built” plan. Adams himself has repeatedly stressed that the city’s finances are stretched, in part because of new labor contracts and spending providing for asylum-seekers, and that “efficiencies” are necessary to keep the city budget balanced without raising taxes. The City Council, which negotiates the budget with the mayor, has also pushed back against the mayor’s cuts. And housing organizations aren’t alone in uniting against the cuts. The city’s public library systems, among others, have campaigned against any budget reductions.