May 19, 2020

NYT: America’s Cities Could House Everyone if They Chose To

“Addressing homelessness is within our power. The question is whether we are ready to act.” 

Biinyamin Appelbaum, NYT editorial board member, states in his May 15th op-ed, “Our housing crisis is a symptom of America’s wealth–and its indifference.” His compelling overview of the broader housing crisis our nation currently faces–and its likelihood to dramatically increase with the economic fallout of #Covid-19–shows the dire, urgent need for focused action.

While our country was enjoying a strong economy pre-pandemic, homelessness was an issue that persisted. “Americans have taken to treating homelessness as a sad fact of life, as if it were perfectly normal that many thousands of adults and children in the wealthiest nation on earth cannot afford a place to live.”

But, this is a reality we chose, based on a myriad of policy, budgetary and community decisions. The cumulative result is that “we have decided to live with the fact that some of our fellow Americans will die on the streets.”

We don’t need to accept homelessness–and this pandemic gives even more urgency to prioritizing #HousingAsAHumanRight. 

As Appelbaum points out, “the nation’s homeless population could be housed for $10 billion a year — less than the price of one aircraft carrier.”

Our nation is faced with significant decisions as we continue to reimagine life with or beyond #Covid-19. 

Homelessness and housing insecurity have taken on increased urgency. 

“Most hard-pressed people manage to stave off homelessness. While there are roughly 80,000 homeless people in New York on any given night, more than 800,000 New Yorkers — more than 10 times as many people — are scraping by, spending more than half their income on rent.”

With New York State’s unemployment rate at its highest level since the Great Depression (not counting the many undocumented, seasonal and other workers who have not or cannot file for unemployment), many of those 800,000 have reached the tipping point.

Our city is facing a potential tsunami of homelessness. We must act. Whether we are ready or not.