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The vacant promises of Kathy Hochul’s $200M homeless hotels plan

 (NY POST) Howard Husock, July 14, 2022

It’s been nearly a year since New York state OK’d what promised to be a positive response to the COVID pandemic: funding to convert empty hotels into housing for the street homeless. But unions and red tape seem set to kill the idea.

Both Gov. Hochul and Mayor Adams recently trumpeted the $200 million bill former Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed in August 2021. As Adams put it in May: “By repurposing underused hotels, we can create supportive housing faster and cheaper.” Hochul last month promised the law “allows us to tackle the affordability crisis head-on and convert empty, underutilized spaces into homes.”

But to date, exactly zero developers have come forward to tap the funds — and, worse, it looks likely the whole idea may come to nothing. And not because there aren’t still a lot of street homeless and empty hotel rooms.

The real culprits are all too familiar: overregulation and union demands.

The Housing Our Neighbors with Dignity Act, sponsored by state Sen. Brian Kavanagh, envisions nonprofit developers, aided by state- or city-backed financing, converting empty hotels to supportive housing — the combination of small rooms and on-site help with the substance-abuse or mental-health services that so many street homeless desperately need.

This is no fantasy. In the 1990s, the Times Square Hotel on West 43rd Street and Prince George Hotel on East 27th Street were converted to hundreds of supportive-housing rooms. This is exactly the sort of community facility that should’ve been undertaken at the same time large state psychiatric facilities were closed.

The supportive-housing-development nonprofit Breaking Ground takes some 500 homeless off the streets each year by placing many in converted rooms — and reports that 98% remain housed a year later. It gets support not just from government but from private philanthropic groups, such as the Robin Hood Foundation, famed for insisting on verifiable results. Hotel conversion can work.

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