Low-Income Tenants Evicted to House Homeless

In NYC, apartments earn more as homeless shelters than as private rentals

By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 12, 2013 7:21 PM CDT

(Newser) – Here's a head-scratcher. New York City's homeless shelters are full. So to find more space for the city's homeless, the city has been renting apartments in low-income neighborhoods. Only the city pays above market rate, which means the actual tenants of these apartments are being pushed out, and now they're facing homelessness, WNYC reports. Apartments rented for shelter space have increased 66% since 2011, when the city and state pulled the plug on programs to help find people permanant housing. The number of people in New York City’s shelter system is now around a record 50,000.

New York City pays about $3,000 a month to landlords, part of which goes to security and caseworkers. Melvina McMillan, 40, who lives in a roach-infested building in Flatbush now increasingly used to shelter the homeless, pays $700 a month. The Department of Homeless Services tells WNYC that it "simply [is] not going to allow anything to happen where tenants feel pushed out for our purposes." But McMillan says she's fighting to stay in her apartment, and has nowhere else to go. Ironically, if she ends up on the street, she could move back into the building—it would cost her nothing and taxpayers $3,000.

Residents of a homeless shelter in Brooklyn.
Residents of a homeless shelter in Brooklyn.   (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, file)
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