May. 24, 2023 By Ethan Stark-Miller
Jessica Katz, the city’s chief housing officer, is stepping down from her post at the beginning of July, City Hall confirmed in a statement to amNewYork Metro Wednesday afternoon.
Katz’s departure, which was first reported by the news site Gothamist, comes as the city struggles to find shelter for tens of thousands of migrants who’ve arrived since last year and continues to deal with a pre-existing housing crisis — where rents are on the rise and affordable units are in short supply.
It also follows the mayor filing a legal motion late Tuesday night asking a judge to alter the city’s long standing right-to-shelter law in times when it “lacks the resources and capacity” to provide shelter to anyone who requests it.
With Katz — who previously worked in past mayoral administrations and led a housing nonprofit — gone, Adams will now have to find a new point-person to craft the city’s housing policy.
“Jessica worked every day to ensure that New Yorkers were at the center of our housing policies, whether an individual experiencing homelessness, a family living in NYCHA, or a lifelong New Yorker struggling to stay in the neighborhood they love,” the mayor said, in a statement.
During her tenure, Katz crafted the mayor’s housing plan, “Housing Our Neighbors,” which at the time, faced criticism because it didn’t set unit production targets like past administrations had in their housing plans. She also successfully advocated for Albany lawmakers to pass legislation that ultimately established the NYCHA Preservation Trust last year.
“Mayor Adams has uplifted the voices of NYCHA residents and people with lived experience of homelessness, and given them access to the decisions that impact their lives,” Katz said in a statement. “We have secured historic funding to make investments in public housing that were decades overdue. We have worked aggressively to build more housing in all New York City communities. And we have moved more New Yorkers into safe, permanent housing even as we grapple with an unforeseen humanitarian crisis.”
Katz told Gothamist she doesn’t know what she’ll do next but that she’s planning to take the summer off. She said she had ticked off much of what she’d wanted to accomplish when she joined the administration nearly 18 months ago and that “now’s the right time” to jump ship.
“These jobs are a real sprint,” Katz said. “I kind of made a list for myself of what I wanted to do when I started this, and I’ve been working my way down that list, so I think now’s the right time.”
But according to a report from The New York Times, citing sources familiar with Katz’s thought process, one of the reasons she is stepping down is because it was never entirely clear who was actually in charge of the city’s housing policy considering she wasn’t given a “deputy mayor” title.
Additionally, according to the report, Katz was incensed by the mayor’s opposition to a City Council bill that would eliminate the so-called “90-day rule” that requires homeless individuals to spend 90 days in city shelters to become eligible for CityFHEPS housing vouchers. That bill, which is set to pass the council on Thursday, is intended to move more homeless New Yorkers out of shelter and into permanent housing to free-up shelter beds.
City Council Deputy Speaker Diana Ayala said that, given Katz’s background in housing policy, the mayor’s actions on housing may have bumped up against her own beliefs.
“With her background, I would imagine that the policy decisions being made at City Hall are probably sometimes contrary to what she’s accustomed to and her belief system.”