This blog, written by Congressman Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D., is the sixth installment in our celebratory series: Leading through Change—40 years of Westhab.
Westhab’s 40th Anniversary is an opportunity for us to celebrate this vital community institution and recommit to working collaboratively to address housing injustice at the federal, state, and local levels.
Housing unaffordability is an urgent and unfortunately long-standing crisis in our community. In New York’s 16th Congressional District, there is a shortage of over 70,000 affordable housing units. Each night we let this crisis go, members of our community are forced into unsafe conditions that threaten their mental and physical health, economic stability, access to supportive resources, and overall well-being. Housing is not only an essential physical infrastructure that defines our neighborhoods, but it is also part of the social infrastructure that makes our communities whole.
Westhab has proven that we can care for each other and break the dangerous cycle of housing instability. Over the last 40 years, they have consistently leveraged federal resources to create high-quality supportive housing and offer wrap-around services for our most vulnerable neighbors in Yonkers. Most recently, Westhab used funding from the National Housing Trust Fund to develop the newly opened Dayspring Campus project. Dayspring Commons provides 63 households with a new home, over half of which are reserved for people experiencing homelessness. It also creates a full-service community hub, Dayspring Community Center. This project is a vision for how our government should invest in communities – providing the resources needed to create safe, climate-resilient, permanently affordable housing co-located with community resources.
During my first year in office, I am proud to have had the opportunity to work alongside Westhab to advocate for more robust federal funding for affordable housing. In July, I was able to advance $500,000 through the House-passed spending bill for Fiscal Year 2022 to invest in the preservation of Westhab units in Southern Yonkers, and I will keep advocating for this funding to be included in the final spending bill that has to pass both the House and the Senate. I have also been a strong advocate for the House-passed Build Back Better Act, which includes $15 Billion for the National Housing Trust Fund and $24 Billion for the Housing Choice Voucher program to provide affordable housing for our lowest-income neighbors. It’s critical that the Senate move to pass Build Back Better as quickly as possible without cutting or reducing any investments secured in the House version, including investments in affordable housing. These investments will allow local organizations like Westhab to scale these supportive housing models, which are proven to promote health and healing for formerly homeless residents and reduce interactions with police officers and emergency rooms.
I firmly believe that by working together, we will be able to end homelessness in New York’s 16th Congressional District and provide affordable housing for all. As Westhab enters a new decade of service to our community, let’s seize this moment to invest in our community and deliver the housing and stability that our neighbors deserve.