1986 Finalist
Suffolk County, New York
Innovations in American Government Awards
Innovations in American Government Awards
New York

New York State announced in 1983 that special grant monies were available to rehabilitate dwellings to house the homeless through the Homeless Housing Assistance Program. Suffolk County, in particular, faced a severe housing shortage coupled with skyrocketing real estate market values. Suffolk County was initially awarded $250,000 in 1984, and a second grant for $200,000 was awarded in 1985. Finally, in 1986, the county executive named the housing crisis his number one priority and made special staff appointments to further efforts to provide sufficient and affordable housing to meet the mounting need.

The Progressive Property Management program is designed to redirect the approximately 200 habitable residential dwellings in the Department of Real Estate's inventory toward the Department of Social Services' clients to avoid motel placements and unnecessary additional expense. The targeted population addressed by this program is homeless persons who become clients of the Department of Social Services and include the physically and mentally handicapped, senior citizens, minorities, low income, and other classes of indigent people.

To create an even larger housing stock and further reduce motel placements, Federal and state grants were applied for and received to rehabilitate additional residential dwellings from the Department of Real Estate's inventory. Thus, not only is the Department of Social Services' housing stock greatly increased, there is also substantial improvements to dwellings owned by Suffolk County that were previously considered "attractive nuisances." Most importantly, the homeless client is better served.

In 1984, the Department of Social Services' caseload for emergency housing placement was 3,650 cases (including either individuals or families), which cost the county a total of $1,600,000. By 1985, the caseload had increased by 18 percent to 4,325, with costs remaining relatively steady at $1,608,000, despite the increase. In addition, approximately 75 to 100 dwellings have had or are slated for major rehabilitation and improvement.