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Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks speaks at Department of Homeless Services Press Conference



May 26, 2017

Contact: Isaac McGinn (, o: 929-221-5564 c: 646-946-9667)



NYC ends use of more than 800 cluster units citywide, down from high point of more than 3,600 units

NEW YORK—Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio and Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks today announced that the Department of Homeless Services has transitioned more than 3,000 New Yorkers out of cluster units into a mix of permanent housing and shelter since Mayor de Blasio’s 90-day review of homeless services, completely ending the use of over 800 cluster units as shelter, including more than 450 units in the Bronx, where cluster use is historically most prevalent. Cluster units are individual private apartments rented across apartment buildings spread throughout the city on a per-unit basis to shelter homeless families. This practice dates back more than 17 years, contributing to the haphazard development of the current shelter system, and is less effective for homeless families than high-quality shelters that are more conducive to delivering social services. The removal of 842 cluster units from the Department of Homeless services portfolio represents a 23-percent reduction in the use of such units citywide.

"We made a commitment to getting out of cluster apartments to house our homeless neighbors and today I am glad to say we are making great progress having gotten out of 842 units, helping 3,000 New Yorkers transition out of them in the process," said Mayor Bill de Blasio. "Our homeless families deserve better and we will continue to take aggressive action in closing down the remaining sites and replacing them with better, safer shelters to help them get back on their feet and into permanent housing."

"This administration has made significant investments to ensure that homeless families have the supports and services they need to return to stable housing," said Dr. Herminia Palacio, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services. "Closing cluster apartments demonstrates this commitment and our dedication to providing high quality purpose built shelters to all New York City families."

"As we transform the shelter system, we are completely ending the use of cluster sites, which have been used as an ineffective stop-gap for 17 years," said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. "Our homeless neighbors deserve better—and through this plan, we are reimaging the shelter system, including transitioning families out of cluster units and replacing them with a smaller number of high-quality borough-based shelters that will more effectively help homeless New Yorkers stabilize their lives."

Earlier this year, Mayor de Blasio announced “Turning the Tide on Homelessness in New York City,” his borough-by-borough plan for addressing the challenge of homelessness, which affects every community across the five boroughs. To address and transform a shelter system that expanded in a haphazard way over the past four decades, the Mayor’s plan will completely end the use of all 360 cluster sites and commercial hotel facilities citywide, while opening a smaller number of 90 new and more effective traditional shelters. The City has committed to ending the use of all cluster sites by 2021.

On January 1, 2016, the City was utilizing 3,658 cluster units across 314 buildings, including 2,877 units across 236 buildings in the Bronx, where the vast majority of cluster sites have been located. Since that date, we have ended the use of 842 units citywide, including 83 full sites, with 474 units and 48 of those buildings in the Bronx.

"Today's announcement by Mayor de Blasio is a monumental step forward in our efforts to protect homeless families and enhance the availability of affordable housing opportunities," said Assembly Member Marcos Crespo. "A win-win effort that meets the promise to eliminate all cluster sites and serve families in settings that offer services and or permanency and stability."

"I'm heartened that the Mayor and city officials are making progress in what has become one the biggest social issues in our city," said Assembly Member Luis Sepulveda. "Homeless people, especially families, did not ask for and do not deserve their plight. The move from these cluster units to permanent homes and shelters with social services is major step in this fight, which promises to be a long one, but one this city can ultimately win with determination and dedication."

"The closing of cluster sites is the right thing to do for families and for the housing market. Cluster sites can be dangerous, don't offer the necessary social services for homeless families, and are unsustainable," said Council Member Ritchie Torres. "Putting these units back into the affordable housing marketplace will give families more options and help the City further confront the homelessness crisis."

"I am deeply appreciative of the de Blasio Administration's efforts to reduce our shelter system footprint. The closing of hundreds of cluster units is emblematic of the Mayor's commitment to address this city's homelessness crisis," said Council Member Annabel Palma. "I firmly believe that these aggressive actions will enable us to return more Bronx units onto the affordable housing market, while implementing a 'borough based' approach to accommodate those burdened with a lack of housing options."

"I applaud the Administration's work to close cluster sites and return affordable units to the market place, where they will better serve families trying to transition out of shelters and into permanent housing," said Council Member Vanessa Gibson. "I thank Mayor de Blasio and DSS Commissioner Steve Banks for their leadership and their commitment to keeping our communities affordable for all."

"Many cluster sites throughout the Bronx are notoriously and chronically bad living situations," said Council Member Andrew Cohen. "I applaud the Administration for taking a stand against negligent landlords with violation ridden buildings and moving the homeless population to safer housing."