Forum Speakers Offer Specifics to Increase Affordable Housing in NYC
By Marlene Nadle, VID Housing Committee Chair
“The conventional wisdom that the city can’t do anything about affordable housing is destructive, demoralizing, and legally wrong,” said tenant attorney Seth Miller. He was one of the speakers at a February affordable housing panel and film cosponsored by the Village Independent Democrats and Judson Memorial Church . The program was organized by VID Housing Chair, Marlene Nadle. Miller proposed a number of actions addressing affordable housing that could be carried out by the City Council and didn’t need Albany’s approval. They include:
- Pass an ordinance penalizing the warehousing of apartments.
- Pass an ordinance prohibiting the reduction of apartment units in a building and the demolition of units in a building, or only allow it if the units are replaced by affordable apartments that are offered to the displaced tenants.
- Devote any property taken in tax foreclosure to affordable housing and stop selling tax liens.
- Pass an ordinance tightening the enforcement of the J-51 tax abatement given to developers.
- Change the formula for setting first rents in 421-a and other city-subsidized apartments.
Tom Angotti, a professor of urban planning at Hunter College, also added things to do to get more affordable housing that didn’t depend on the state. His suggestions, like all of the panelists suggestions, began to correct the former housing policies described in the screened film, The Vanishing City, produced by Fiore DeRosa and Jen Senko.
- All housing subsidized with public funds should be made permanently affordable by using land trusts and regulatory agreements.
- Demand the city change the way it defines affordable by basing it on neighborhood median income instead of the median income for the entire metropolitan region.
- The city should increase taxes on habitable housing left vacant for more than a year and expropriate housing vacant for more than two years.
- Demand changes to the City Charter to give community Boards the power and resources to make major decisions on land use and infrastructure.
- Demand an end to the public give aways to developers by doing away with J-51 and 421-a.
Moses Gates, a policy planner at the Association of Neighborhood and Community Development, supported most of these proposals. He suggested another way to get around the state was to go to the Federal level and push to have the Housing Trust funded and to get the HUD office to initiate public/private development of affordable housing. Gates also stressed the need to form alliances on housing issues with people like Public Advocate, Tish James, City Council Speaker, Melissa Mark Viverito, and the Chair of the Council’s Housing Committee, Jumaane Williams. There was a shared feeling that DeBlasio’s plan to build 200,000 new units was not sufficient. “Bloomberg built 165,000 units of affordable housing, but lost more affordable units than that,” Angotti said.
The same thing is likely to happen with the DeBlasio plan if 200,000 units are built without incorporating any of the other changes the panelists suggested.
Related Reference: RoofLines, the Shelterforce Blog, Feb. 7, 2014, Home Rule and Rent Stabilization