Three quarter homes, or three quarter houses, are are unregulated dwellings for people who are experiencing homelessness, people with substance abuse challenges, people receiving public assistance, and people with mental health needs or disability services needs.
In NYC, three quarter homes have operated without inspection or regulation for decades, leaving residents in homes no avenue for filing tenant grievances. Increasingly unsafe and unhealthy conditions in three quarter homes across New York City prompted the New York Times to run an investigative series on the dilapidated dwellings in May and June 2015. CLICK HERE to read the original NYT investigation that prompted city officials to take action.
The City of New York responded by removing residents living in unsafe structures from the three quarter homes. The City has offered them temporary living situations, such as hotels and motels until city housing officials can find a more permanent solution. The City of New York also created a new task force in June 2015 to ameliorate conditions in three quarter homes. While the task force has evaluated its performance highly, many residents of three quarter homes feel that they have been left behind while others are joyful to be living in clean, safe spaces.
The New York Times continued its coverage of this issue in the article “New York City Starts Moving Tenants From ‘Three-Quarter’ Homes, but Others Are Left Behind”, written by Kim Barker and published on August 2, 2015. The article explains that some residents of the three quarter homes have been moved into locations like the Sleep Inn that are clean and affordable. However, other residents have not been given access to new housing yet. Barker cites reasons such as disability and substance use as factors preventing the flight of three quarter home residents from the unsafe and unsanitary homes.
For example, Barker tells the story of one man in his mid-50’s whose recent knee surgery prevented him from packing quickly. His “spot” at the Sleep Inn was filled by the time he was able to pack and get there. As a result, he has been left behind, as the City does not have enough housing spaces to accommodate everyone who needs to relocate from the three quarter homes.
Experts trace the modern history of three quarter homes in NYC to the public policies of former mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg advocated for reducing the city’s homeless shelter rolls, without providing any additional housing for the people expelled from the shelters. Three quarter homes were developed out of necessity to fill the housing gap for low income residents of NYC. Three quarter homes are not sanctioned by the City–they are not up to code and they are of shoddy quality–but they provided an alternative to sleeping on the streets for many people experiencing homelessness in the past few decades.
The City of New York has pledged $5 million to repair three quarter homes and bring them up to the building code and move people into higher quality housing. Let’s hope the pledge doesn’t dissipate before the next election cycle!