My Platform for Housing Justice

New York’s housing crisis is out of control. While Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo claim to take this crisis seriously, they do little more than tinker at the edges. As Public Advocate, I would stand up for low income renters across New York City for real, scalable policies that preserve affordability, and protect families from predatory landlords, right now.

Before being an activist elected official, I was a tenant organizer. I know first hand the struggles that renters face in this City. Over half of New York’s households pay more in rent than they can afford. This has cascading impacts. Without a safe and stable home, it is impossible to have stable healthcare, stable education, or a stable job.

Over 63,000 people are homeless in New York. Many of them are children. One in ten children in the New York City public school system experience homelessness at some point during the school year.  The reason? Weak tenants’ rights in New York City.

2.5 million New Yorkers are rent stabilized—a system of tenant protections that is weak, and getting weaker thanks to decades of landlord influence in Albany. And these rights will expire all together next year, in 2019. Millions more families currently have no renters’ rights at all. Gentrification is sweeping through every corner of our city, and new construction in our communities does not serve the growing need. As public advocate, I would fight for the following bold policies to confront the housing crisis head on and ensure that every New Yorker has access to truly affordable, safe housing.

Universal Rent Control

Rent regulation is a time-tested solution to the housing and eviction crisis for millions of New Yorkers. The system needs to be expanded to protect more renters -- many of whom currently have no tenants’ rights at all. Private equity landlords, who are buying up more and more of the housing stock, are able to raise rents at a moments notice. This trend is not confined to big, multifamily buildings. Since the financial crisis, investor purchases of smaller apartment buildings have nearly doubled.

2019 is a critical year in which rent regulation will be debated in the New York State legislature. Our city needs to take back control of our rent laws which is why the state must repeal the Urstadt Law. As Public Advocate, I would also call on the State Legislature to:

  1. Pass good cause eviction with no unconscionable rent increases to protect tenants who live in small, non-owner occupied buildings. These buildings are prevalent across East New York, East Harlem -- two places the de Blasio administration has pushed rezoning plans that are designed to increase real estate values. Without good cause, too many renters are subject to an immediate eviction.

  2. Close loopholes in the State’s current rent laws that incentivize tenant harassment, cause sudden and permanent rent hikes, and lead to evictions and a loss of affordable housing.

My platform would fight to end the tenant harassment caused by the vacancy bonus and individual apartment increases; stem losses and re-regulate thousands of lost apartments by ending vacancy decontrol; halt permanent rent hikes caused by major capital improvements and preferential rents. These loopholes work together to allow landlords to churn apartments and artificially elevate legal rents -- so much so that over 100,000 apartments have been deregulated. As Public Advocate, I would not only crack down on landlords who exploit these loopholes, I would aggressively fight to close them forever.

Land Use

The de Blasio administration, led by Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, has fought to maximize developer profits over the real need of low income communities in search for stable housing. As a City, we have sold off public land for private profit, and accelerated gentrification through the rezoning of neighborhoods across New York. In the face of mass community opposition, Mayor de Blasio has implemented policies that will lead to rising rents and increased displacement.

As public advocate, I would call for a moratorium on rezonings that simply transfer wealth from communities to real estate developers, unless we have Universal Rent Control to end displacement.

I would fight to make sure that resources go to those with the most need, and stay in neighborhoods by:

  1. End the sale of public land to private actors;

  2. Reverse the harmful Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy in favor of a policy that prioritizes more deeply affordable housing

  3. Require a 15% set aside for homeless individuals in new developments funded by the City

Public Housing

Public Housing is an essential resource of affordable housing for the lowest-income New Yorkers, and yet thousands of public housing residents are regularly without heat and hot water. NYCHA has $32 billion in unmet capital needs, and the city’s proposals for increased Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) and Infill are privatization of New York City’s valuable housing resource for low-income New Yorkers.

At the same time, I am opposed to federal receivership of NYCHA. Across the United States, federal receivership has meant that projects are torn town and tenants are left at the whim of the private market. NYCHA is New York’s most valuable affordable housing resource, and it must be preserved.

There are four key areas driving the Housing Authority’s deficit. The main challenge is the consistent decline in federal operating subsidies -- a gap that Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio are doing little to fix. I would fight to fully fund NYCHA, and this should be a top priority in our city and state budgets moving forward.

In addition to fully funding of NYCHA, there are three areas where better policy, and a clear audit of personnel functions would greatly improve the services administered and diminish the deficit.

As public advocate I would:

  1. Conduct an investigation of the work performed by inspectors and analyze the overall health conditions of NYCHA residents as compared to the general population. We have seen health disparities among the NYCHA residents, including lead poisoning and higher rates of asthma. Inadequate maintenance and inspection should not be life or death.

  2. Sue NYCHA. It is the responsibility of the Public Advocate to be the bully pulpit for the people of New York, especially those who are most disenfranchised. Tenants of NYCHA have for decades been forced to endure inhumane living conditions that endanger their health, tenant harassment, over-policing, and a lack of access to resources afforded to those who live in more affluent parts of the city. At times the treatment of NYCHA tenants could be considered in breach of their human rights. They deserve someone who will stand up and hold the city accountable for their neglect and carelessness in their management of NYCHA.

  3. Add NYCHA to the Public Advocate’s “Worst Landlords List”