“A Cure for the Tale of Two Cities”

In the past few weeks, UHAB has joined many other housing advocates in an effort to boil down the pages and pages of platorms for the next mayor to three major tasks. The following letter will be delivered to the winner of Tuesday’s election on November 6th, 2013. Many groups have endorsed the platform. Add your group to the list, and click here for the platform in pdf format.
A CURE FOR THE TALE OF TWO CITIES: 
A BRIEF AFFORDABLE HOUSING PROGRAM
Dear Mayor-Elect:
We affordable housing advocacy groups applaud your 8-point plan to build 200,000 affordable apartments, institute mandatory inclusionary zoning, fight for home rule over rents and evictions, create an effective NYCHA board, set aside NYCHA units for the homeless, promote a rent freeze and improved Rent Guidelines Board, provide Housing Court representation, and more. We recognize that these legislative, budget and regulatory items will not be easy to achieve; some will run into significant opposition from Real Estate lobby or require action in Albany or Washington DC. We look forward to working with you and your future administration in overcoming resistance and winning support for such measures.
Although you have seen many detailed policy proposals, we urge you to embrace the suggestions below as a cure for the Tale of Two Cities.
1. PRESERVATION
  • Be a visible and vocal advocate for changing state law affecting NYC housing: To preserve all existing affordable rental housing and recapture that lost in the last two decades, work forcefully to (1) repeal vacancy destabilization and re-regulate the 300,000 apartments and SROs lost to vacancy destabilization, (2) close loopholes that allow evictions and jacked-up rents for rent stabilized and rent controlled tenants, (3) restore Home Rule over Rent Laws, (4) refinance and renew Mitchell-Lama rental and cooperative housing contracts and recapture developments that have left the program, and (5) preserve existing project-based Section 8 housing.
  • Enforcement: Beef up code enforcement with additional inspectors and enforce pro-actively where landlords show a pattern of non-compliance.  Strengthen the building code with additional enforcement and steeper penalties for landlords intentionally allowing construction to run amok in an effort to harass tenants. Defend and enforce the illegal hotel law to prevent reduction of the affordable rental housing stock and secure safety for residential tenants.
  • NYCHA: Discontinue the infill/land-lease plan; end NYCHA’s $100 million annual payments for special policing, PILOT and sanitation, and establish a meaningful community planning process at each development toward NYCHA’s financial stability.
  • Rent Guidelines Board:  Appoint public members from diverse fields who are committed to rent stabilization as a public necessity and to keeping rents affordable.  Hold public hearings in all boroughs and during non-workday hours. Alter the methodology so guidelines are based on relevant data.
2. PRODUCTION
  • Bring  greater equity to land use decisions and ensure that the private market generates the affordable housing that our city needs by implementing a Guaranteed Inclusionary Zoning program for all developers who take advantage of a City action to increase zoning to R6 or above.
  • Implement the proposed 200,000 affordable unit production plan while maximizing the benefit to the community by ensuring that the new units are permanently affordable, with a mix of income levels that are most appropriate to stabilize the local community, and by emphasizing the role of community-based not-for-profit developers who deepen the impact of the new housing for the community.
  • Reform the 421a tax abatement program to create greater affordable housing benefit and limit the tax giveaway where it is not necessary to incentivize new development.
  • Conduct a comprehensive survey of city-owned land to ensure that the city can build affordable housing where it is most appropriate, regardless of which city agency currently controls the land.
3. HOMELESSNESS
High housing costs and lack of rental assistance are at the heart of homelessness. The City must continue to honor its commitment to provide safe and well resourced emergency shelter for those in need while creating permanent pathways to re-housing. Prevention programs and a path to stable housing are more humane and cost-effective than shelters and the City should continue to expand its proven and cost effective prevention programs. United to End Homelessness’s essential steps, endorsed by 130 organizations and the NY Times, include
  • Funded legal service eviction and foreclosure programs, and services for the formerly homeless;
  • A flexible, portable, ongoing affordable rent subsidy for homeless individuals and families;
  • Priority set-asides in existing government programs – at least 1/3 of public housing units and Section 8 vouchers  and 1/5 of HPD-assisted private and supportive housing; and
  • An interagency council on homelessness with government, NGO, and consumer stakeholders to set priorities and funding needs for housing preservation, affordable production, and a timeline.
A comprehensive approach to ending homelessness for all individuals and families across systems (DHS, HRA, RHY) in NYC is needed.
CONCLUSION  In the midst of our city’s worst housing crisis, we need you to be more than a mayor. We need a champion who will work with us and lead the fight to repeal Vacancy Deregulation, work with Albany to reform the Rent Guidelines Board, win Home Rule, establish a new rent subsidy program and more .  After the election, we whole-heartedly welcome the opportunity to meet with you and your transition team to begin discussions and planning to move our respective agendas forward.  With your strong leadership and our mobilization of concerned New Yorkers, we can move together on these items toward building one city for all.
 
Additional organizations that have signed on so far:  5-15 W. 91 LLC tenant association, Columbus House Tenants Association, Cooperators United for Mitchell-Lama (CU4ML), Hotel Windermere Tenants Alliance (HWTA), Independent Plaza North Tenant Association, Woodside on the Move
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