To deal with our housing crisis in New York, the city must rapidly build new affordable housing while protecting existing apartments everywhere. That means bold, aggressive measures that are even more necessary now as we simultaneously fight a pandemic and an economic crisis. Here’s how:
- Up-zone wealthier areas where we can build far more affordable units.
- Repurpose city office buildings and hotels for affordable housing.
- Think big by thinking small and add basement apartments, SROs and other small units.
- Provide homes and help for the homeless and those struggling with rent.
Add housing – for everyone – in wealthier areas.
For years, our re-zonings focused on adding apartments in lower-income areas—which led to higher-income people moving in, making communities less affordable, and often forcing out longtime residents. We will build in wealthier areas with a high quality of life, allowing lower- and middle-income New Yorkers to move in by adding affordable housing. And we will eliminate the community preference rule in those areas, which keeps many New Yorkers out of desirable neighborhoods.
Repurpose City office buildings for affordable housing.
We will convert a number of City office buildings into 100% affordable housing by taking advantage of more City workers working from home and consolidating workers that will still be in-person to free up space.
Allow private office buildings and hotels to become housing.
The pandemic emptied many of our hotels and office buildings. In some cases, their owners want to convert the buildings to housing, but City regulations make that either too expensive or too challenging. With some zoning tweaks and other rule changes, we can allow appropriate conversions and add desperately needed housing stock—particularly at hotels in the outer boroughs.
Give City-owned property to non-profit land trusts to create affordable housing.
Vacant and underused City property is a massive waste of our resources and often a blight on neighborhoods. In the midst of this housing crisis, we will aggressively seek to partner with community land trusts by offering properties to organizations that commit to building permanently affordable housing.
Think big by building small.
Outdated rules prevent New York developers from building the kind of small, cheaper micro-units common around the world. Homeowners in single family zones are prevented from legally leasing “accessory units” like “granny flats.” And single room occupancy units, or SROs, and basement apartments are still illegal, despite their common use elsewhere. By allowing all of these to be built or legally used, we will quickly add hundreds-of-thousands of affordable apartments.
Prioritize those who need supportive housing the most.
New Yorkers in local shelters — especially those who lived in the neighborhood beforehand and were displaced — will be prioritized for supportive housing. So too will young people aging out of foster care, who should be given every chance at starting off adulthood on the right foot.
Improve rent subsidies to prevent New Yorkers from becoming homeless.
New Yorkers on the brink of homelessness and in shelters need far greater assistance to transition into permanent housing. One way we will accomplish this is by increasing the value of the City FHEPS housing vouchers so they reflect the value of the housing that is actually available in our city. There was a time when $1,323 for a one bedroom and $1,580 for a two bedroom was sufficient, but that time is long gone. And when the cost of a person in the shelter system is $124, and the cost of a family is $196 per day, increasing the value of vouchers is common sense governing.
Streamline the process to help New Yorkers behind on their rent.
When New Yorkers fall behind on rent – as many have during the pandemic — their options to get help involve navigating a long trail of red tape and bureaucracy with the City’s One-Shot Deal and CBO’s rent relief programs. It is demoralizing to endure multiple long application processes while facing eviction. Rent relief programs need similar information from applicants such as amount owed, proof of residence, and a summary explaining the situation. The City can create a common application for those in need and allow approved CBOs access to the information. It will also allow an applicant to go to one place to see the status of their various applications for help with paying back arrears.