Testimony of The Real Estate Board of New York to the Committee on General Welfare in Support of Int. 1483, Int. 1484, Int. 1902 and Int. 1903

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The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) is the City’s leading real estate trade association representing commercial, residential, and institutional property owners, builders, managers, investors, brokers, salespeople, and other organizations and individuals active in New York City real estate. REBNY strongly supports policies that expand the local economy, grow and improve the City’s housing stock, and create greater opportunities for all New Yorkers.  

Homelessness is a complex problem that requires a multitude of policy tools to combat. Thank you for the opportunity to provide support for the legislative goals of reducing barriers to accessing shelter placement and case management. 

BILL: Int. 1483-2019

SUBJECT: A Local Law in relation to a plan to accommodate pets of homeless individuals and families in the shelter system

SPONSORS: Levin, Levine, Brannan, Holden, Chin, Ayala, Public Advocate 

BILL: Int. 1484-2019

SUBJECT: A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to reporting on the placement of pets whose owners enter homeless shelters

SPONSORS: Levin, Holden, Chin, Lander, Brannan, Ayala  

City-provided homeless shelters do not currently accept pets. Int. 1483 would require the Department of Homeless Services, in collaboration with the Department of Social Services, to develop a plan to accommodate pets of homeless individuals and families with the objective of providing pet-friendly shelters and identifying other temporary pet care arrangements that would allow homeless pet-owners to keep their pets. Int. 1484 would require the Department to report, on a monthly basis, information on the placement or disposition of pets that belong to people who enter homeless shelters. 

Pet ownership should not be a barrier to access housing, and a plan should be put in place that provides predictable and reasonable guidance related to the housing of pets with their owners within the shelter system. The social contract of our city only works when the rights of one group do not impede or infringe on the rights of another, so it’s important to recognize the rights of other clients within the system and their experience and reactions to animals. The city plan should recognize legitimate concerns regarding the accommodation of pets including safety, sanitation, allergies of others and property damage. The plan should therefore also account for extra fees to cover damages caused by pets. Shelter providers must maintain the ability to recoup these costs. A successful plan will carefully balance the needs of all involved stakeholders to ensure the safety and wellness of all. A reporting requirement is an important component in measuring the success of any plan long term. 

BILL: Int. 1902-2020

SUBJECT: A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to the provision of case management services for homeless individuals

SPONSORS: Levin, Kallos 

BILL: Int. 1903-2020

SUBJECT: A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to rental assistance eligibility requirements for street homeless individuals

SPONSORS: Levin, Kallos

Int. 1902 would require the Department of Homeless Services to provide case management services to everyone assessed by either DHS or by an organization that contracts with the City, who is reasonably believed to be living on the street. Int. 1903 would set 30 days as the maximum time that the Department of Social Services/Human Resources Administration may require a street homeless applicant to have received case management services to be eligible for certain rental assistance programs. 

Case management services are a critical component of mitigating returns to street homelessness for those within the shelter system and exiting the shelter system. New York City has experienced success in reducing homelessness among veterans with its “Mission Home” program, which utilizes case management services. From 2016-2017 the number of homeless veterans decreased 4 percent in NYC compared to a 2 percent increase nationwide in the same period. In the years of the program, from 2011 to 2016, the population of homeless veterans in NYC decreased from 4,677 to 599, according to HUD PIT counts. NYC Department of Veterans Services employs peer support, after care, and landlord coordination to reduce homelessness in their “Mission Home” Initiative. Treating the service care component on equal footing with landlord coordination has been key to the success of the program. It is an explicit acknowledgement of the human needs of the veteran and the legal and fiduciary responsibility of the housing provider.  

It is encouraging to see the Council expanding case management services to other homeless programs. All programs that include the housing and sheltering of people experiencing homelessness should find reasonable ways to incorporate these services. 

CONCLUSION  

Providing housing is the first step to stability but it is not the only step. Funds must be allocated for accompanying services, job training and a robust assistance fund to cover hard costs for property owners. The combination of housing and dedicated funds to support the homeless and the providers housing them is equally critical to the provision of units to break the cycle of homelessness.  

The Real Estate Board of New York is ready and willing to work with the Council and appropriate City agencies to design a system that balances the needs of the homeless individual or family, the obligations of the landlord, and that of the other tenants.   

Thank you for the time and consideration of these points. 

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CONTACT:

Basha Gerhards

Vice President Policy & Planning

Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY)

(212) 616-5254 

bgerhards@rebny.com