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DeBlasio unveils $2.6B 'supportive housing' program to tackle homelessness

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is pictured on Sept. 16, 2015. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton

Mayor Bill de Blasio Wednesday unveiled a $2.6 billion initiative to combat the city's homelessness crisis by creating 15,000 "supportive housing" units with on-site social services.

The 15-year plan put distance between the mayor and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, because the city and state in the past have shared funding and responsibility for supportive housing under the New York/New York agreements.

The apartments are intended for homeless veterans, domestic abuse survivors and those living on the streets. The services include substance abuse and mental health treatments.

The program will be financed by $1 billion in city capital funding and $1.6 billion in low-income tax credits and from private developers.

"We are acting decisively. We are not waiting on Albany," de Blasio said at a Times Square news conference. He and Cuomo have locked horns in the past over this and other issues.

Pressed about negotiations over a new, fourth version of the New York/New York program, the mayor said: "It was time for New York City to act. It was as simple as that."

De Blasio has been criticized for the city's increasingly visible homeless population -- something Cuomo's team noted with their response.

"Everyone understands the city has had a very real homeless problem and we're glad the city is starting to act on it," Cuomo spokeswoman Dani Lever said. "Given the severity of the situation the state will be providing management assistance to the city and additional resources."

She did not provide further details.

A Cuomo administration official said the state invests $1 billion annually in shelter and homelessness programs in the five boroughs while the city's share is about $700 million.

A New York Times/Siena College poll earlier this week showed 62 percent of residents disapprove of the mayor's handling of homelessness. More than 59,000 people are living in homeless shelters, according to the Coalition for the Homeless.

The nonprofit at yesterday's event applauded de Blasio's program, which will include 7,500 newly constructed units and 7,500 at various sites, and called for more from the state.

"Today's announcement needs to be part of the fourth New York/New York agreement," the group's president, Mary Brosnahan, said.

Freddie Cox, 72, a homelessness advocate who lives in supportive housing, introduced the mayor and recalled his own former "invisible, lonely life" and struggles as a homeless man battling alcoholism. He said combining housing with social services works, adding, "They've got to treat the whole person."

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