Affordable Housing for All New Yorkers

Suraj Patel
May 23, 2018 · 4 min read
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Photo by Hans M on Unsplash

We have a housing crisis in New York that threatens the unique nature and character of our city. New York’s affordability crisis poses a particular threat to low- and middle-income New Yorkers: More than half of the city’s renters are considered rent-burdened, meaning that they devote more than 30 percent of their income on housing. Unfortunately, this problem is only worsening. As rents continue to increase, affordability continues to decrease.

No one should be forced to choose between being able to raise a family and staying in the city they love. New York is open to everyone and should continue to be.

New York’s housing affordability crisis is driven by a housing availability crisis. Simply stated, we need more housing of all kinds to keep up with New York’s population growth. In order to ensure housing access we must increase not only the number, but also the quality of all affordable housing accommodations including rent-controlled and subsidized housing, NYCHA housing, senior housing, and supportive housing.

But our poorest and most marginalized neighborhoods cannot be the only ones that bear the brunt of new development and density. No one who contributes to the unique character of their neighborhood should be driven out because of rising rents. Too often, politicians in New York target and drive out vulnerable communities because to do so is cheap, easy, and faced with minimal pushback. It’s not fair for lower income neighborhoods to bear the entire burden of development in our city simply because our current representatives aren’t willing to stand up for low-income communities.

Rather than threatening the survival of lower-income New Yorkers in low-density neighborhoods, new housing should be built in already developed, high-opportunity, high-density neighborhoods such as Midtown which has good schools, ample amenities, easy access to jobs and underutilized lots fit for “upzoning.”

The Union Square Tech Hub has set a terrific example for responsible high-density development by embracing new development that creates jobs, while simultaneously supporting protections for the surrounding historic neighborhood. This is a roadmap for responsible development across the city.

Progressives must fight for fair housing opportunity to ensure access to affordable living accommodations and to provide the option to move into higher opportunity neighborhoods. We must protect and support the diversity paramount to the uniqueness of New York City by constructing more affordable housing. Building new housing increases affordability, allows young people to live and start families, helps seniors continue to stay in their neighborhoods, and celebrates New York’s diverse communities.

Part of the affordable housing crisis is driven by a breakdown at the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). NYCHA is a city agency funded by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development that provides affordable public housing for half a million New Yorkers. Unfortunately, poor management and underfunding have rendered NYCHA ineffective in its mission to support low-income New Yorkers with safe and reliable housing.

Underinvestment in NYCHA properties that has led to dangerous conditions including heat and hot water outages, and even unaddressed vermin infestations in apartments. New York residents deserve access to safe housing and it’s the responsibility of our city and federal representatives to advocate for this right. New York City desperately needs federal representatives who will fight for all New Yorkers and their right to affordable public housing. Proper NYCHA funding and federal oversight must be restored.

NYCHA’s failings leave residents to fend for themselves. Residents have resorted to suing the city to repair the lead paint, lack of heating in freezing temperatures, water outages, and vermin infestations that NYCHA has failed to remedy

Since 2001, the federal government has cut $3 billion from NYCHA. Our representatives have allowed these cuts to happen even though NYCHA has $25 billion in unmet capital needs for system-wide repairs and upgrades. The poor management of NYCHA by our representatives ignores the needs and rights of New York residents, leaving them alone, with little access to reliable help, when facing dangerous and threatening situations.

In addition to repairs, for years NYCHA ignored direct complaints and faked lead inspections through false reports- reports that were approved by senior NYCHA leadership. 79% of residents said NYCHA did nothing when lead paint was discovered in their apartments; 80% had children whose blood-lead levels have not been tested; and 54% had called NYCHA for repairs but have been waiting for months. The people of New York deserve better.

The federal share of NYCHA funding has been declining for decades and it’s clear that NYCHA needs help. It’s time to put the future of NYCHA firmly in the hands of NYCHA residents themselves, giving them the funding, support, and power to make decisions about their own communities.

New York City needs federal representatives who will restore funding for NYCHA, to undo the budget cuts of the last two decades, secure increased federal funding to close NYCHA’s capital funding gap, and demand additional federal oversight of NYCHA spendings its money. it’s clear that NYCHA residents are being actively endangered by the negligence and outright dishonesty of NYCHA administrators, we need representatives who will stand up for them.

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