The factor ‘at the base’ of homelessness, according to NYC’s ex-City Council speaker

In tandem with the migrant crisis, homelessness in New York has skyrocketed in recent months. Nearly 64,000 people occupy the city’s homeless shelters, according to the NYC Department of Homeless Services, well over NYC’s 2019 record of 39,365 people.

Meanwhile, homelessness has surged in other parts of the country. For instance, California’s homeless population has grown to 173,800, an increase of 22,500 since 2019, according to an analysis by CalMatters.

Former New York City Council speaker and CEO of the non-profit WIN Christine Quinn says one factor in particular is driving the dramatic increase in homelessness — a lack of affordable housing.

“Every city has its own dynamic, but at the base of everything, I believe, is that housing has become unaffordable, certainly in New York and across the country,” Quinn told Yahoo Finance’s editor-in-chief, Andy Serwer.

Housing has become less affordable over recent years, exacerbating homelessness. In the last decade, the median sales price of US homes has jumped from $238,400 in 2012 to $454,900 this year, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. In a 2020 report, the US Government Accountability Office found that a $100 increase in median rent was associated with a 9% increase in the estimated homelessness rate.

“The majority of the housing stock is incredibly expensive, and out of reach of folks who are making just above minimum wage, say, then you’re gonna end up with people who don’t have some place they can leave to,” Quinn said. .

Activists, supporters, and members of the homeless community attend a protest calling for greater access to housing and better conditions at homeless shelters, outside City Hall in New York City on March 18, 2022. – (Photo by Ed JONES / AFP) (Photo (by ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images)

Quinn also shed light on domestic violence, a lesser-known cause of homelessness. Nearly 80% of homeless mothers have experienced domestic violence as adults, according to WIN, which is the largest provider of family shelter and supportive housing in New York City. Domestic violence is responsible for more than 40% of the family population entering the Department of Homeless Services in New York City, according to a 2019 study from the New York City Comptroller’s Office.

“We’ve done a lot of work as a country in a society over the past few decades around domestic violence, sending out a message that if you leave the batterer, you will be supported, they’re places for you to go. And survivors are hearing that message and leaving,” Quinn said. “And that is creating a big — at times, the leading reason people enter family shelter, and we don’t want that to stop, because we want people to leave.”

Still, those experiencing domestic violence require housing and face the challenge of high costs. Quinn and the non-profit WIN argue that cities like New York should increase funding for affordable housing. In New York in particular, this means increasing housing to $4 billion annually, which would provide $2.5 billion for the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development and $1.5 billion for the New York City Housing Authority.

“We want to then help them get stabilized and get housing,” Quinn said. “But we need to if we really want to end this crisis, we need to either or both develop more housing that’s affordable to very low-income people and put programs in place like housing vouchers that pay for part of the rent that will get people out of shelter.”

Quinn served as the first female and openly gay speaker of the New York City Council from 2006-2013. Since 2015, she has served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of WIN, previously “Women in Need.” The non-profit runs 14 shelters and 400 supportive housing units in New York City.

Dylan Croll is a reporter and researcher at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @CrollonPatrol.

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