Mayor Eric Adams has inherited a staffing crisis across many agencies but if he does not act quickly it will slow down housing production and other housing-related services. The Mayor must get creative and allow agencies to hire up quickly.
Make no mistake, the staffing shortage is inefficient and hurting the government. While there may be some budget savings from the understaffing, it will cost the city more money overall. Affordable housing production is slowing down, meaning there will be fewer units of desperately-needed affordable housing. It also means that housing services for people experiencing homelessness are short staffed and people are staying in expensive shelters longer than they need to be.
The staffing shortage is citywide affecting many agencies according to an analysis by the NYC Independent Budget Office. Actual City headcount has been decreasing since June 2020.
Our analysis shows the impact on agencies that affect housing, including the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Department of City Planning, Department of Homeless Services and the Human Resources Administration.
Actual headcount at HPD has decreased since Jan. 2020, just before the pandemic began, when there were 2,410 people working at HPD. Now there are 2,287, a headcount loss over more than 120. They are losing people faster than they can replace them. Their headcount is also much less than they are allowed under their budget – which funds HPD to have 2,621 positions.
We have heard from providers that the lack of staffing is slowing down projects. This may show up in housing production numbers this year, but we have also heard that it is affecting projects earlier in the pipeline. The impact on housing production may not show up right away, but it may be too late to reverse when we see it. We have heard that the biggest shortages are among lawyers and project managers. HPD and the Office of Management and Budget must get creative to staff up so that the agency has the people it needs to build and preserve affordable housing.
The staffing shortage is also affecting DCP, where the agency has 60 fewer people on staff than their budget supports – 18% less than they are allowed. This will also cause housing projects to take longer.
There are also related housing services at HRA and DHS that are affected by staffing shortages. DHS shelters people experiencing homelessness. And the Human Resources Administration assists with rehousing people that are experiencing homelessness. Both agencies are extremely understaffed.
DHS is understaffed by 118 people, 6 percent less than they are funded for under their budget.
And HRA is understaffed by 334 people, 15 percent less than allowed under the budget. A City Council report on HRA’s budget also noted the staffing shortage and attributed it to, “the hiring freeze in 2019, that attrition continues to outpace the agency’s ability to hire new staff and that hiring has been a slow process due to several factors including the pandemic, civil service rules, and the review and approval process the agency must go through.”