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NYC Spends $122M Buying Up 14 Cluster Site Homeless Shelters

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaking at a press conference May 6, 2020.

New York City dropped $122M to snap up 14 Bronx cluster site homeless shelters with plans to convert them into affordable housing.

The deal to acquire the properties, which span 777 units, closed late last month, City Limits reports. Most of the units are set aside for families who earn no more than 60% of area median income, which is just under $72K annually for a family of four. There are already some people living in the units, and the rest will be moving from other places.

It is the third time the city has bought cluster sites, which have private ownership that receives funding from the city in order to house homeless people. The program has been in place for more than two decades, but in 2016, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would bring it to a close. That year, sisters aged 2 and 1 died in cluster site housing when the radiator in the unit they were living in burst.

An Investigation Department report a year earlier found that about 3,000 families were living in cluster sites around the city and that many of the buildings had safety violations, The New York Times reported. Critics of the program, established when Rudy Giuliani was mayor, say it allows unscrupulous landlords to turn a profit without providing proper housing. A total of 95% of the units have now been closed or converted by the city.

“These bold transactions are crucial tools for addressing homelessness and finally ending the Giuliani-era cluster program,” Department of Social Services Commissioner Steve Banks said in a statement. “This is how we are transforming our shelter system and ensuring that New Yorkers experiencing homelessness receive the supports and resources they deserve.”

Joseph Friedman is listed as the owner of most of the properties, per City Limits, which are in the University Heights, Longwood and Morrisania areas of the Bronx. They will now be run by Settlement Housing Fund, Bowery Residents Committee, MBD Community Housing Corp., Fordham Bedford Housing-Corporation and Neighborhood Renewal HDFC.

Homelessness and housing affordability continue to plague New York City; in May, there were more than 51,000 homeless people, including more than 15,000 children, staying in the New York City municipal shelter system each night, according to the Coalition for the Homeless. Many others have not met their rent obligations during the coronavirus pandemic, and while there are billions of dollars made available to help, the funds have been slow to make it into the hands of renters and landlords who need it.