CHPC’s newest white paper explores neighborhood opposition to homeless shelters and the homelessness crisis in NYC.

In September 2019, the New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO) released a study, commissioned by the Office of the Manhattan Borough President, on the alleged impacts of homeless shelters on nearby property values. The study concludes that proximity to homeless shelters negatively affects the price of housing. While CHPC believes that it was not intended to do so, the IBO study could have the serious unintended consequence of empowering neighborhood opposition to shelters, which frequently prevents or delays critical housing resources from being built.

The homelessness crisis in New York City has reached peak levels; over 62,000 New Yorkers slept in homeless shelters in September 2019. New York has a moral, legal, and fiscal obligation to end this crisis and its detrimental effects on individuals and families. Until all residents have access to long-term, stable housing, the City must advance this goal and comply with a unique legal requirement known as Right to Shelter, which obligates the City to provide shelter to all residents who need it.

Emergency shelters are a critical resource serving individuals and families in need, yet they often viewed by New York City communities as undesirable. Residents often oppose a shelter in their neighborhood, claiming that its presence will cause quality of life problems and lead to reduction in local home values. Although there is little evidence to support their claims, opponents of shelters often succeed in delaying or preventing a facility’s development. As the City has advanced efforts to meet the growing need for shelters, opposition to them has reached new extremes. In 2019, stably housed New Yorkers protested, staged hunger strikes, and made arson threats in their attempt to prevent new shelters from being developed. The persistence, aggression, and lack of regard for facts and evidence of these efforts demonstrate the role of NIMBYism and anti-homelessness biases in driving them.

The recent IBO study gives credence to one of the most common claims associated with NIMBY efforts to oppose shelters, and could have the adverse unintended consequence of empowering them. In light of this serious potential, CHPC’s newest white paper undertakes a rigorous review of the IBO study and explores the policy issues raised. 

In Homeless Shelters & Their Neighbors, CHPC concludes the following:
  • Shelters are a critical resource serving New Yorkers in need, a core component of policy solutions to the homelessness crisis, and a preferable alternative to the tremendous growth in street homelessness seen in other cities nationwide.
  • The IBO study inappropriately positions stably housed homeowners as an injured party in the city’s homelessness crisis. The study adopts, rather than examines, negative assumptions about shelters and their residents, and suffers from methodological flaws which call into question the validity of its findings.
  • Even if the IBO study’s findings were accurate, they would speak not to the disruptive behavior of shelter residents, but to the market impact of the stigma associated with homelessness.
  • Moving forward, research and discussion must remain grounded in the goal of lifting New Yorkers out of homelessness and poverty, to ensure that efforts to develop, implement, and advance policy solutions are as effective as possible in ending this crisis.
Read the white paper to find out more! Click here to download as a pdf.