Land use and housing are the two biggest issues facing our district and NYC as a whole. The land use process is inequitable, and rents keep getting higher as the City’s definition of “affordable housing” becomes murkier. As more New Yorkers face the possibility of eviction and homelessness, we need to understand how we got here to begin with, and what we can do to fix it.
Build and prioritize social housing: non-means tested, municipally owned mid-level housing to address the housing crisis, modeled after Vienna
Social housing would both lower the price in the private rental market through pricing pressure and accommodate new residents who are left out due to the housing shortage. Housing can be funded by revoking the 421-A tax break to private developers that costs the city over $1 billion annually and through low interest government bonds on municipal land, making the development process cheaper and more efficient than building through private developers.
Universal Rent Control
When over half our renters are rent-burdened, and when 60,000 New Yorkers were homeless as of 2018, we need to reconsider what we are doing and think of how we can change it. In 1950 the vast majority of apartments in the city were rent controlled. As more and more apartments have been decontrolled the city has become less and less affordable, I support Albany’s S3082/A5573, “prohibiting eviction without good cause”, which, among other protections, gives all renters the right to lease renewals with limited rent increases. Combining that with the elimination of MCI increases and a major investment in social housing, we can end New York’s housing dysfunction.
Establish a process for regular citywide comprehensive land use planning
The current land use process is centered on zoning, with the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) only invoked when a zoning change or exception is requested. The result is that, notwithstanding the occasional high-profile battle, developers almost always get what they want, often with little to no public input or even knowledge of what is planned. The process is incredibly reactive, and we as City Council need to be proactive in determining what our city as a whole needs. A comprehensive citywide plan can make coordinated use of a variety of policy tools, such as investments in social housing or public transportation, in addition to zoning, and if the process is well-designed and democratic then public interest will take precedence over developer interests while neighborhoods will not be pitted against each other. We need to work together, and we need to determine NOW what NYC will look like in ten years.
Conduct racial and income impact studies on any new proposed development
The gentrification of neighborhoods causes displacement of low income residents and almost always targets communities of color. Racial impact studies, as proposed by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, would help protect against systemic racial injustice in real estate development. Similarly, income impact studies would help ensure that neighborhoods under development do not become unaffordable or inhospitable for existing residents and small businesses. Development does not have to equal displacement.
Elect our community boards, bring them out of an advisory role, and turn them into a check for councilmembers
Currently, our community boards are appointed, which makes a weak democratic process in our land use process. Electing our Community Boards, providing stipends for the campaigns of low income folks who decide to run, as well as a stipend for attending the monthly meetings, would ensure equitable elections that are truly representative of our communities. Then, we need to ensure that Community Boards no longer merely serve an advisory role, and rewrite the City Charter to ensure that Community Boards serve as active checks to the Councilmembers. Finally, we must carefully design the relative responsibilities of community boards vs. citywide planning to ensure community control without devolving into unnecessary obstructionism.
Fully Fund NYCHA and Oppose Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) which aims to privatize NYCHA
While RAD falls under the purview of the State legislature, City legislators need to do everything they can to ensure the NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA) remains public. We must prevent the privatization of what little public housing we have.
Impose a fee on corporate landlords for empty units, and turn long-term empty units into affordable units
In the midst of a housing crisis, there is no reason to waste precious housing by letting it remain empty for long periods of time. By imposing a fee on landlords, we incentivize them to fill empty units, and make them affordable in the process. Oakland, Washington, DC and Vancouver, BC have all done this, and it’s time New York does too.
Build the majority of housing for those below 50% Area Median Income (AMI)
Below 50% AMI qualifies one as being “very low” or “extremely low” income, in HPD’s classification. (In the NYC region, 50% AMI for a four-person family is $56,850.) These are the people who are most housing insecure. Building and pricing the majority of new housing for these families would help prevent homelessness. And the rest of new housing should be for one of the looser standards of affordable: “low”, “moderate”, or “middle” income.
Expand Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)
Providing the recently homeless and incarcerated with Permanent Supportive Housing could, in effect, end homelessness. PSH is low barrier, affordable housing combined with medical and social services such as mental health and addiction services as well as help in applying for jobs. In Denver, as well as serving the social good, the large presence of PSH saved the city at least $2,373 a year per person housed. While we do have PSH in our own city, we need more of them.
Eliminate Major Capital Improvements (MCIs) (S1255/A2352)
Major Capital Improvement (MCI) increases, which allow landlords to pass the cost of building repairs and renovations on to renters, must be eliminated. As Housing Justice for All found, MCIs represent a tiny fraction of what landlords spend on maintaining buildings, but are used to justify unaffordable rent increases. There are many other incentives for landlords to improve their buildings. MCIs are simply used as mechanisms to harass people out of their homes.
More Community Land Trusts
Community Land Trusts (CLTs) are non profit, community based organizations that seek to ensure permanent, deep affordability of commercial spaces and housing by retaining community ownership of the land under the buildings. Community Land Trusts act as a pathway to homeownership for people who are low to moderate income, and can be a bulwark against homelessness.
Increase tenants’ rights, and no evictions during a pandemic
Supporting, at every level, tenants’ rights to unionize is crucial to holding landlords accountable. Councilmembers should provide, through their district office, information on forming tenant unions, and help provide connections to lawyers for tenants in need. Pass Good cause eviction, the right to renew a lease and protections against rent increases, and right to counsel.