The city is moving forward with its plan to convert cluster housing sites into affordable apartments. The city’s Department of Social Services recently announced that about 1,700 of the cluster site apartments could go back into the roster of rent-regulated apartments by August, Crain’s reports.
In December last year, the city announced that it was looking to end the cluster program as a means to combat homelessness in the city. The Giuliani-era program was used to house the homeless in private apartments throughout the city. The units were usually located in affordable developments, but state law prohibited the capping of rents on these apartments. As a result the city was often paying twice the average rent to maintain these apartments, and in some cases landlords sought to drive out existing tenants so they could use those units as cluster apartments and collect more money.
A 2015 Department of Investigation probe revealed that the city was paying an average rent of $2,451/month in low-income neighborhoods where the average rent ranged from $528 to $1,200 per month. At its height, the cluster site program had over 3,600 apartments across the city, according to Crain’s.
The de Blasio administration has pledged to abolish this system as part of its Turning the Tide on Homelessness Program, that was established in 2017. The city has now sent a list of these 1,700 apartments to the state agency that regulates rent, and wants to ensure that the apartments return to legal rent levels as opposed to market-rate housing.