Features, Finance, Health and Safety, Law and Politics, Municipal Government, New York

NYC Comptroller’s Watch List – Homelessness and Department of Buildings

June 13, 2019

By Stephanie West

NEW YORK, NY –  New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer has released agency watch list reports on the Department of Buildings (DOB) and citywide spending on homelessness – two areas where the Comptroller’s office has identified large increases in spending without significant improvements in results.

“Transparency matters – it’s the only way we can shine a light on successful policies and lagging results. But when it comes to construction safety and our homelessness crisis, lagging results mean that lives are at stake,” said Comptroller Stringer. “The Department of Buildings has a wide mandate to protect tenants, construction workers, and New Yorkers across the city. That’s why the alarming rise in construction injuries and fatalities is so concerning. The slow pace of progress to tackle our homelessness crisis is unacceptable – and fundamentally, it’s a moral crisis. Our agency watch list report shows we need to do more to meet the crisis of affordable housing – it’s time we finally connect our housing plan with our homelessness policies.”

Homelessness Services

Despite extraordinary increases in spending for homelessness prevention and permanent housing, the homeless population in shelter has remained stubbornly high, resulting in rising costs.

  • Between FY 2014 and FY 2019, citywide spending on homelessness has more than doubled, to $3.2 billion.
  • Shelter costs have more than doubled over the same period, to $1.9 billion in FY 2019.
  • Spending on programs to prevent homelessness or provide successful permanent exits from shelter has also risen from $436 million in FY 2014 to $1.0 billion in FY 2019.
  • The number of families with children has increased by 9.4 percent during this same time period.

Department of Buildings

The Department of Buildings mandate expanded under the “Building for One City” plan and its budget and full-time headcount have grown by 62 percent and 51 percent respectively between FY 2014 and FY 2018. However, safety performance has deteriorated.

  • Since FY 2014, the DOB budget has grown by $61 million, or 62 percent, from $98.7 million to $159.7 million in FY 2018. During this 4-year period, the department added 528 full-time employees, expanding full-time headcount by 51 percent.
  • Over the same period, the DOB’s spending on contractual services more than doubled, from $11.3 million to $24.1 million, largely for information technology.
  • DOB-issued initial building construction permits have increased 13 percent to over 111,000 in FY 2018. Renewal permits have grown 40 percent, to more than 62,000 in FY 2018.
  • However, the number of total building construction-related accidents increased by 252 percent from FY 2014 to FY 2018, including a 167 percent increase in fatalities. The number of construction-related incidents to which DOB responded increased by 129 percent over the same period, as accidents and injuries more than tripled.
June 13, 2019

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