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Press Release

January 22, 2021


  • Isaac McGinn,
  • Neha Sharma,
  • Ian Martin,

More Permanent Housing for Homeless Families:

De Blasio Administration to Create Another 750+ Units of Affordable Housing, Including Housing for More Than 1,500 New Yorkers Experiencing Homelessness

NEW YORK— The de Blasio Administration announced that it is entering the third phase of the City’s plan to convert more cluster buildings into permanent affordable housing for families experiencing homelessness, as part of the ongoing effort to phase out the 21-year-old stop-gap program that used cluster units as shelter. Through this preservation transaction, the City will help not-for-profit housing developers acquire and rehabilitate another 14 residential “cluster site” buildings, currently used to house families experiencing homelessness, and convert them into more than 750 permanent affordable housing units to continue addressing the homelessness crisis.

As a result, hundreds of homeless families will receive permanent affordable housing with rent-stabilized leases, regulatory protections, and ultimately, over the long term, rehabilitated apartments. When this transaction is complete, this Administration will have reduced city-wide cluster use by nearly 95 percent citywide. 

“Our innovative strategy to convert former cluster units to permanent housing has provided hundreds of families experiencing homelessness with a pathway to permanency,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. “This latest conversion will take that progress even further, creating hundreds more affordable apartments for another 550+ families, which in this crisis is more important than ever, and bringing us even closer to our goal of phasing out this haphazard Giuliani-era program altogether. When this transition is complete, this Administration will have ended the use of nearly 95 percent of all cluster units being used as shelter, demonstrating that through creativity and commitment we are continuing to transform the shelter system and connect New Yorkers in need with the range of tools to get back on their feet.”

In the first two conversions, the City financed not-for-profit developers’ acquisition of more than 30 such buildings, creating permanent affordable housing for more than 650 families experiencing homelessness and preserving hundreds of additional units of affordable housing in the process. This third conversion of 14 cluster buildings into permanent affordable housing takes the City’s progress phasing out the 21-year-old Giuliani-era cluster program even further, and very close to our goal of completely phasing out the program. As a result of this transaction, more than 550 families currently experiencing homelessness will be able to obtain permanent, affordable housing. 

Connecting Homeless Families to Permanent Housing––Through this transaction, qualified locally-based not-for-profit housing developers will assume ownership and operation of the buildings as permanent, low-income affordable housing. Regulatory protections will be extended to the converted units to preserve their affordability for the long term, and the buildings will also undergo rehabilitation and renovation in the coming years. The cluster apartments will continue to be operated as shelter for New Yorkers experiencing homelessness with funding and services provided by the City’s Department of Homeless Services until the transaction is complete. The City has already initiated the process of directly engaging the families experiencing homelessness and currently residing in these cluster shelter units, going door-to-door and family by family, to discuss this transition and rehousing opportunity with each household, including to verify that families would like to remain at these locations and obtain permanent housing there. Homeless families residing at these locations who are prepared for housing permanency at the point of transition to not-for-profit ownership will be offered the opportunity to remain as tenants with a new rent-stabilized lease if they wish to remain in the building. Families that may be seeking, are already connected to, or are in the process of preparing to move to permanent housing elsewhere will be able to proceed with those plans, or families who may have additional service needs (such as mental health services) that require more significant continued support as they get back on their feet will transition to alternative shelter locations before moving to permanency.   

Ending the Stop-Gap Cluster Shelter Program Once and For All–– Since January 2016 when the City was using a high-point of approximately 3,650 cluster units and first announced its intention to end the cluster site program, the City’s Department of Homeless Services has reduced the citywide use of cluster apartments to shelter homeless families by more than 75 percent using multiple strategies, including through outright closure, transition to alternative uses, and conversion to permanent housing. This transaction accounts for approximately 74 percent (566 units) of the remaining cluster units (769 units). When complete, there will be only about 200 cluster units remaining, a nearly 95% percent reduction from the high-point. 

ICYMI: Turning the Tide on Homelessness in NYC–– The de Blasio Administration has taken aggressive action to address the citywide challenge of homelessness over the past several years, restoring the City’s rental assistance and rehousing programs, which have helped more than 155,000 New Yorkers remain in or secure permanent housing, and directing unprecedented resources toward a new comprehensive and holistic approach to fighting homelessness focused on prevention, street homeless outreach, expanded transitional housing options, averted shelter entry, improved shelter conditions, expanded civil legal services, and more robust rehousing and aftercare services. In February 2017, the Mayor announced “Turning the Tide on Homelessness in New York City,” his neighborhood by neighborhood blueprint for transforming a shelter system that built up in a haphazard way over decades.

The plan has four core pillars:  

  1. Preventing homelessness whenever we can; 
  2. Addressing street homelessness; 
  3. Rehousing families and individuals so they can move out of shelter or avoid homelessness altogether; and 
  4. Transforming the haphazard approach to providing shelter and services that has built up over the last four decades by shrinking the Department of Homeless Services’ footprint by 45 percent and ending the use of 360 “cluster” shelter and commercial hotel locations while siting a smaller number of 90 borough-based shelters in all five boroughs 

2020 Status Update: Headed in the Right Direction, More Work to Do–– The de Blasio Administration’s strategies have taken hold, headed in the right direction. The shelter census for 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 remained essentially flat year over year for four years for the first time in more than a decade and today, the NYC DHS census stands at fewer than 53,000; and through the strategies outlined above and below, the City is preventing homelessness, providing permanent housing, shrinking and strengthening the NYC-DHS shelter footprint and raising the bar for the services and supports provided citywide. Moving aggressively to implement each pillar, the City has made important progress: 

  1. Investing in legal services and implementing first-in-the-nation access to counsel plan for tenants in housing court: evictions dropped by more than 40% and thousands of New Yorkers were able to stay in their homes from 2014 through 2019 because of reduced evictions 
  2. Investing in comprehensive HOME-STAT outreach and specialized programs and resources, like Safe Havens and stabilization beds, for individuals experiencing street homelessness: quintupled the number of dedicated, specialized beds citywide, with hundreds more opening in the coming months and years, and helped nearly 4,000 homeless New Yorkers off the streets and subways who’ve remained off 
  3. Rebuilt rental assistance from scratch after City and State cuts in 2011 and reinstated rehousing programs: helped more than 155,000 children and adults remain in or secure permanent housing, with the vast majority exiting shelter to permanent housing 
  4. Closing less effective stop-gap shelters while opening new high-quality borough-based shelter sites: closed nearly 200 shelter sites that did not meet our standards (down from the 647 sites reported in Turning the Tide) and sited 88 new borough-based shelters, shrinking the DHS shelter footprint by more than 30% citywide —well on the way towards the goal of shrinking the footprint by 45 percent overall 


About the New York City Department of Homeless Services:
The Department of Homeless Services (DHS) works to prevent homelessness before it occurs, address street homelessness and assist homeless New Yorkers in transitioning from shelter and the street to permanent housing. DHS collaborates with not-for profit partners to provide temporary shelter and services that homeless New Yorkers need to achieve and maintain housing permanency. In April 2016, Mayor de Blasio announced a major restructuring of homeless services in New York City, followed by the release of a comprehensive plan in February 2017 to turn the tide on homelessness, neighborhood by neighborhood. The plan’s guiding principle is community and people first; giving homeless New Yorkers, who come from every community across the five boroughs, the opportunity to be sheltered closer to their support networks and anchors of life in the communities they called home in order to more quickly stabilize their lives. Learn more about how DHS is turning the tide on homelessness, neighborhood by neighborhood, at