Housing is a crisis facing New York City. It costs more to live here than in most other urban areas in the U.S. New Yorkers’ wages have been stagnant over the past decade, and yet monthly expenses rise without mercy. Housing costs have escalated for all income brackets. That’s why we have to expand and upgrade New York City’s housing stock to meet our growing population demands. We have to concentrate on moderately priced housing because the middle class has been hit the hardest.
We must redefine what affordable housing is. The average salary is about $47,000 a year, which means, after taxes and other deductions, citizens take home only about $2,500 a month. This number is where we must begin in defining moderate affordability. The standard applied around the country is that nobody should spend more than 33% of his or her take-home pay on housing. This gives us a housing cost of about $850 a month. New York real-estate companies use 40 times your annual salary, which comes out to almost $1200 a month, or almost 50% of your take-home pay. Who can touch a one-bedroom for $1200 a month these days? Never mind if you’re a single mother raising one child on $47,000 a year.
With an increasing population and a diminishing affordable housing supply, New York is facing a huge crisis. Even though new housing has been built over the last two decades, it is mostly at the upper end of the spectrum. New York is unique in that a large portion of housing is sold to non-New-Yorkers who live here only part-time. About 40% of apartments have been purchased by foreigners in recent years. That’s not counting US citizens buying apartments in New York or New Yorkers buying multiple apartments and combining them into one.
If a developer builds a 200-unit luxury apartment building and 60% of the units are bought by foreigners, then that leaves 80 units for US citizens. This is why we have to end all subsidies to luxury building development and direct all tax breaks and other government assistance to building only affordable housing for moderate-income and low-income families.
I will advocate the following:
- Immediately pass legislation restoring Mitchell Lama legislation passed in 1955. Privatization of tenants benefits them. Let people enjoy the fruits of ownership. In addition, they become better neighbors who take pride in their neighborhood. Mitchell Lama was a successful program that helped tens of thousands of New Yorkers live and raise families in our wonderful city.
- Build moderate-income housing using state and city pension funds so that our new teachers, police, firemen, and other government employees just starting out have affordable housing.
- Responsibly reduce zoning regulations and incentivize private contractors to build more affordable housing.
- Completely rebuild NYCHA. Its leadership has failed residents for years, and new leadership must be installed to offer transparency in all financial matters. Furthermore, much more state and federal funding is essential so that buildings are adequately budgeted. Funds must be initially focused on the most important issue: make sure everyone has heat and hot water! Boilers must be repaired in a matter of days, not weeks. If it takes longer, NYCHA will be required to quickly install portable boilers. Everyone must live with dignity! After this is taken care of, then address mold, repairs and crime. Furthermore, we should lobby to obtain greater autonomy from the federal government so that action can be taken quickly and the mayor can act and be held accountable.
- Work with developers to build low-income housing for those who are making much less than $47,000 year.
- Foreigners and the very rich must be heavily taxed to discourage real-estate builders from endlessly catering to the rich instead of the middle class desperately in need of affordable housing. I propose an initial tax of a percentage of the purchase price then an annual tax for those who live in facilities under six months per year.
- Use 10% of city and state pension plans to build union housing. This is a good investment for the present and future health of our union employees. It can help us recruit new teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other public employees whose starting salaries make it almost impossible for them to live in New York City.
- Put a tighter rein on what we pay those private landlords that house the homeless population on a temporary basis. We should not pay more for dilapidated facilities.
- We have to reduce time and paperwork to approve new buildings. It can take almost 3 years from the time a developer submits his or her intentions to the city before approval is finalized. We need new apartments now! The only way to solve this problem is to reduce bureaucracy. It is ludicrous that paperwork delays building by one third to one half of the time!
- Strengthen punishments for landlords who abuse tenants in rent-regulated buildings. Landlords who illegally raise rent and physically/mentally abuse tenants should face financial fines and jail time. Owners know what the incomes from rent-stabilized buildings are going to be, and, if the mortgages far exceed incomes, it is their fault and their responsibility. It is also the bank’s responsibility to give them those loans. Banks should also be held accountable. I don’t want to make this all one-sided. We must make it easier for landlords to get rid of tenants who are not paying rent or who destroy property without landlords having to endure months of court appearances or thousands in legal fees. We need a fair system for both tenants and landlords. Landlords should be able to make money but not by breaking the law. We must balance the needs of current and future residents with the rights of landlords to make fair profits.
- We must redefine what real affordability is. It should be based upon the real incomes of our district, not the medium income of the entire city.
- We should end all subsidies to developers building luxury buildings and put those subsidies into moderate and low-income housing. We need to make it tougher on both landlords and tenants who abuse our system.