Safe, Affordable Homes for All New Yorkers

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We live a Tale of Two Cities. The wealthiest New Yorkers enjoy a life of luxury, while many working and retired families can barely pay the rent. At the very bottom, 50,000 New Yorkers sleep in shelters every night. But the challenge is much greater. Almost half of all New Yorkers spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing — and one-third of households spend at least half on housing.

In 10 years, New York City has lost nearly as many affordable apartments as it has built or preserved. Gentrification, unscrupulous landlords, and the real estate lobby’s hold on government have pulled tens of thousands of apartments out of rent stabilization, and more are lost every year.

The de Blasio Record on Affordable Housing

Bill de Blasio has worked for affordable housing throughout his career. He served as regional director for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under then-Secretary Andrew Cuomo and President Bill Clinton. As a member of the City Council, Bill de Blasio wrote the law that stopped landlords from discriminating against tenants based on their source of income and championed cost-effective preventive solutions for New Yorkers at risk of becoming homeless.

As Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio took on negligent landlords with his NYC’s Worst Landlords Watch List, passed legislation to protect tenants facing winter without heat, secured repairs at one of the city’s most notorious housing developments, and leveraged the power of city subsidies to demand the highest standards of affordable housing.

  • NYC’s Worst Landlords Watch List. Since its launch in 2010, approximately 250,000 unique visitors have used NYC’s Worst Landlords Watch List to look up their buildings, organize with fellow tenants, and pressure bad landlords into providing safe, decent apartments — making it one of the most-used resources in city government. Thanks to tenant organizing and media pressure spurred by the Watch List, more than 320 buildings have been substantially repaired and removed from the list. The model is so successful it is featured on Craigslist as a tool for apartment hunters and has been replicated by the City of Vancouver.
  • Protecting Tenants Without Heat. When tenants in run-down buildings faced winter after winter without heat and hot water, Bill de Blasio introduced and passed a law toughening penalties on the worst offenders. For an unscrupulous owner trying to cut costs by cutting off tenants’ heat, the Heat Enforcement for All Tenants (HEAT) Act changed the equation and ensured real consequences for landlords leaving tenants in the cold.
  • Providing Legal Access in Housing Court. More than 90 percent of tenants go to Housing Court without a lawyer, and losing a case can mean eviction. As Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio founded an innovative pilot program with South Brooklyn Legal Services to partner attorneys in need of courtroom experience with tenants who lacked representation in Housing Court. The initiative is just beginning to help vulnerable tenants, and it provides a model that can be expanded to help more people in need in the future.
  • Standing Up For Working Families at Flatbush Gardens. When 10,000 tenants at one of Brooklyn’s oldest affordable housing developments faced deteriorating apartments and management threatening to evict them, Bill de Blasio stood by their side. De Blasio took on the notorious landlord, David Bistricer, and successfully pressured him to make thousands of long-overdue repairs to the complex. De Blasio fought alongside tenants to keep the complex affordable and even succeeded in forcing the landlord to pay $150,000 in back fines to the city.
  • Untangling the Housing Authority’s Bureaucracy. Bill de Blasio was first on the scene to raise the alarm and secure the rent assistance tenants and landlords were owed when the city’s Housing Authority’s new computer system inadvertently purged low-income tenants from its Section 8 program. Those rent payments were critical to keeping vulnerable seniors and families in their homes, and ensuring landlords of smaller buildings could keep up with expenses.

A Vision: Safe, Affordable Housing for Every New Yorker

Bill de Blasio’s vision for housing in New York City recognizes that new buildings aren’t exclusively for the wealthy, development reinforces middle-class neighborhoods instead of weakening them, and that the fundamental rights of tenants must be protected. His plan will build or preserve nearly 200,000 affordable units, and help both tenants and small landlords preserve the quality and affordability of their homes.

End Giveaways For Big Developers and Enact Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning

New York used to build for the middle class. Today, it seems to build only for the wealthy. Bill de Blasio believes that when neighborhoods are rezoned — unlocking enormous value for building owners — developers should be required to build affordable housing for low- and middle-income families in return, a concept known as mandatory inclusionary zoning. By converting incentives to hard-and-fast rules, Bill de Blasio’s plan will create 50,000 new affordable housing units over the next decade.

Put Our Pension Funds to Work in NYC

New York City has more than $130 billion in public pension funds, but barely 1 percent has been invested here in the five boroughs. Those investments have earned a solid return, put New Yorkers to work, and helped refurbish thousands of affordable homes across the city. As Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio helped spur more locally targeted investment — but we can go even further. As mayor, de Blasio will direct $1 billion in city pension funds to affordable housing construction, preserving 11,000 new units.

Unlock Vacant Properties and Direct New Revenue to Affordable Housing

Real estate speculators have left thousands of lots vacant across the five boroughs. In boom neighborhoods like Williamsburg, entire blocks are left idle while big developers wait for prices to rise, so they can reap even bigger profits. A tax loophole actually encourages this kind of speculation; vacant residential land has an ultra-low property tax rate. But while developers wait to reap profits, New York City is at the grips of an affordable housing crisis. We can unlock that land to build new homes by closing the tax loophole, and applying the same tax rate to big, vacant lots as we do to commercial properties. The change would spur a new wave of affordable housing construction, and the new tax proceeds from land left idle would be earmarked for a city affordable housing fund, creating 4,000 new units.

Creating a new non-profit land bank to efficiently acquire, temporarily warehouse, and transfer vacant properties would give the city new agility to expedite development of affordable housing. In addition, conducting an annual census of vacant properties—like Boston and other cities do—would give the city the information it lacks today to target new initiatives. Finally, providing additional flexibility in the transfer of development rights would create more potential for affordable housing around desirable high-density locations, such as near transit hubs.

Protect Renters, Including Seniors and Renters with Disabilities

Bill de Blasio will keep working and middle class people from being priced out of the neighborhoods they helped build. As mayor, he will fight to retake control of rent rules from Albany, so we can make our own decisions again. Bill de Blasio will also support tenants fighting to maintain the affordability of their homes through organizing efforts in complexes like Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village, Independence Plaza, and Riverton. And to protect tenants in rent-regulated apartments from wrongful eviction, Bill de Blasio will expand the innovative pilot pro- gram he launched as Public Advocate to provide pro-bono legal counsel to tenants fighting in Housing Court.

Expanded access to information and legal representation for tenants at risk of eviction will help keep families in their homes. Building on his work in the City Council and as Public Advocate, de Blasio will target revenue streams to fund information programs and civil legal services that cost-effectively prevent evictions. Bill de Blasio also supports initiatives that would improve outreach for and increase access to the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) and Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) programs.

Bring Basements and Granny Flats into the Legal System

There are thousands of unsanctioned housing units across the city in basements and above garages — but the city doesn’t recognize them. That deprives tenants of legal protections, and prevents landlords from making the kinds of upgrades that would ensure the health and safety of families living in them. Bill de Blasio will end the practice of pretending these homes and their families don’t exist. As mayor, he will bring them into the regulated housing system, ensure they meet legal standards for safety, and work to bring them under rent-regulation, so their tenants will have the same basic protections as New Yorkers in traditional apartments.

Enforce Standards for Affordability

The city’s New Housing Marketplace Plan has delivered less than promised, with many units at the high end of the affordability spectrum (including subsidies for studios renting for more than $2,000). We must set tighter standards that ensure subsidies meet the needs of lower-income families and are distributed equitably throughout the five boroughs.

Help Homeowners and Small Buildings Keep Costs Down

Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn boast that they haven’t raised taxes, but homeowners and landlords know better. They are squeezed from every side—from sanitation fines to city fees—but few expenses are as infuriating as ever-rising water bills. Bill de Blasio has pledged to end the “hidden tax” of using water bill hikes to pad the city’s general budget, and de Blasio will only ask homeowners to pay enough to keep the system in good working order. He’ll also revamp the appeals processes at a host of city agencies, so that homeowners have an honest shot at appealing tickets and bills they believe are unfair.

Build a National Coalition For Affordable Housing and Tap Private Funding Sources

New York City can’t solve the affordable housing crisis on its own. From his experience with HUD, Bill de Blasio knows how to spur the federal government into action for vulnerable tenants. As mayor of the nation’s largest city and biggest public housing authority, de Blasio will rally the country’s cities around a new urban agenda in Congress for public housing, the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, Section 8 rent vouchers, and other crucial components of the affordability matrix. In addition, the city should ensure that Housing Development Corporation revenue is reinvested in affordable housing; we can encourage banks to satisfy their obligations under the Community Reinvestment Bank through the financing of affordable housing.

Make Our Public Housing the Pride of Our City

The city has laws against landlords who fail to provide heat, who don’t repair broken elevators, and those who don’t re- move toxic mold. Yet every day, the nearly 600,000 people who live in public housing see those same conditions around them and wait years for help to arrive.

New York City needs a mayor who takes ownership of our public housing crisis and fixes it. As Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio fought for thousands of NYCHA tenants to secure repairs and wrestle with bureaucracy. As mayor, Bill de Blasio will put new energy behind health and safety repairs, eliminating NYCHA’s notorious backlog. De Blasio will bring NYCHA up to code with real, substantive repairs made by a dedicated workforce drawn from public housing residents.

Help Small Landlords Maintain Affordable Housing

Unabated market forces threaten the homes of hundreds of thousands of working-class families living in smaller, multi- family housing. Helping small landlords maintain their properties through HUD funding streams must be a priority. The city can extend the reach of community development corporations that provide the technical assistance essential for effective property management. Finally, a few simple steps can make Section 8 housing easier to administer and increase the range of choices for subsidized tenants.

Guarantee Access to Emergency Homeless Shelters

No family should get caught in bureaucratic red tape while trying to access a shelter when they lack alternative housing options. Bill de Blasio will reform unfair and overly punitive eligibility review rules that deny shelter to too many needy families.

Face Down the Homelessness Crisis

More than 50,000 New Yorkers, including 21,000 children, will go to sleep in a New York City homeless shelter tonight. This is a stain on a city that boasts so much wealth, and it’s a terrible crisis for struggling families. For years, the city has treated only the symptoms of homelessness—simply building shelter. But Mayor Bloomberg has walked away from solving the problem and refused to provide housing support for families on the brink.

It’s time to change that. Bill de Blasio will work with state and federal partners to establish a new housing support program for families at risk of losing their homes or those who find themselves on the streets. New vouchers will enable them to afford private housing — at a fraction of the cost of a shelter stay. And as mayor, Bill de Blasio will reverse the Bloomberg administration’s policy and make a portion of Section 8 vouchers and vacant NYCHA apartments available again to homeless families leaving shelter. These are tried-and-tested solutions that help families avoid crisis.

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