Gateway Housing is excited to support HELP USA’s transformative redevelopment of the 515 Blake Avenue block in East New York, which was presented last week to the New York City Council for approval under the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). The redevelopment has already been approved by the Brooklyn Borough President and the City Planning Commission, and needs only a green light from City Council to begin construction on one of the most innovative multi-use residential projects in the city this year.

The redevelopment will tear down an aging shelter in dire need of repair to build a new facility with 195 improved units of temporary housing for families. The project will also provide 326 new permanent affordable housing units to the East New York community. More than half of the new housing will be permanently affordable for very low income New Yorkers, including 42 units of supportive housing, 78 units of affordable housing for formerly homeless New Yorkers and 51 units for households making below 50 percent of the Area Median Income.

The new development will be modern and more attractive, replacing the forbidding fence that currently surrounds the existing shelter with outward-facing buildings that enhance streetlife in the neighborhood. The ground floor will offer a licensed early childhood education center, a black box theatre and retail spaces affordable to neighborhood residents.

Most importantly, HELP USA will replace an outdated shelter with two smaller, innovative shelters using trauma-informed design to allow more personalized attention and support to homeless children and their families.

At Gateway Housing, we believe the ultimate solution to homelessness is permanent housing. But in a high-cost city like New York, there will always be people in crisis who need temporary housing. And New York City’s tight housing market means homeless families often take months to find permanent housing they can afford. We owe it to their children to make sure they spend those months – even years – not in dangerous hotels with no services, but in the most supportive, least traumatic environment possible, close to home and integrated with permanent housing in the surrounding neighborhood.

In other words, the HELP USA development at 515 Blake is exactly the kind of community investment that New York needs. Gateway Housing is proud to support HELP USA and the City Council in making this innovative project a reality.

The New York City Independent Budget Office’s unfortunate new report: Does Proximity to a Homeless Shelter Affect Residential Property Values in Manhattan? is a unreliable muddle masquerading as science. It uses a flawed methodology and a miniscule sample size to jump to conclusions that are questionable at best. It will confirm the worst biases of NIMBYists who will rush to use it to stop new, better shelters from being built in their neighborhoods – and keep homeless children warehoused in overcrowded, substandard hotels. This report is far below the IBO’s usual high standards.

On such an important issue as this one — the costs and benefits of homeless shelters in our neighborhoods — the IBO owed it to the public to make sure its methods were flawless and its evidence incontrovertible. It came up short of those standards, and should never have published. Now we have a damaging headline, unsupported by its meager evidence. No one benefits from this.

The problems with the report’s methodology are obvious. It looks at just 39 of the city’s 530 shelters and a tiny 7.6 percent of home sales, to conclude that properties close to shelters have lower values. The report never looks at property values before and after a shelter opened, to see if the shelter’s presence was the actual cause of this decline. And it puts blinders on to avoid taking into account the downward economic effects of the disamenities that often surround shelters – the freeways, emergency rooms, waste transfer stations and such that tend to be the only neighbors that have accepted shelters in the past.

Indeed, the report notes, almost as an afterthought, that being on the same block as the shelter had no impact. Somehow, being within 500 feet of a shelter brings down property values, but being on the same block does not? Faced with conclusions like that, most researchers would take a step back and try to figure out what went wrong with their methods. They certainly wouldn’t rush to print.

No matter. The report is out, and it will be used by homeowners concerned about the city’s softening real estate market to pin the blame squarely on homeless families. This is particularly unfortunate timing, as the present administration has recently done much to increase funding for services and security in shelters, and is trying to get out of squalid shelter hotels by building a new generation of better, more humane nonprofit-run shelters that most of us would be quite happy to live near.

The IBO notes that the report’s conclusions are different from a report by NYU’s Furman Center that found permanent supportive housing for homeless people actually increases nearby property values, claiming the conclusions likely vary because of differences between homeless shelters and supportive housing residences. Actually, it’s far more likely that differences in methodology, like Furman’s use of before and after data, account for the disparate findings of the two reports. And please don’t use the two reports to make an either-or argument for supportive housing over shelter – we need them both: good shelters to respond to New Yorkers’ housing emergencies without stuffing them into bad hotels, and more permanent supportive housing to solve homelessness in the long term.

There are plenty of examples of well-run nonprofit shelters that have had positive impacts on their residents and the community, and contribute to the safety and security of the surrounding neighborhood. Gateway Housing is working with the city and providers to redevelop existing shelters in need of repair into nonprofit-owned and operated shelters with affordable housing and services for the community on-site. Doing so improves the shelters and adds amenities to the neighborhood, benefiting the shelter residents and their neighbors – and bringing up property values. We hope the IBO will take another, more careful look at the very good work being done by nonprofits and the city to both shelter the most vulnerable among us and improve our communities.