As somebody who has struggled with housing for years, Arelis Figueroa is the sort of New Yorker who may stand to learn from the bold housing proposals put forth in latest days by Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams.
The 2 highly effective Democrats final week doubled down on shared coverage initiatives geared toward making the town and state work for extra folks. Hochul referred to as for constructing 800,000 houses and touted a proposal that will increase wages for the bottom earners. Adams added new element on his “moonshot” name for 500,000 houses, together with reasonably priced models in repurposed workplace buildings.
However for Figueroa, who lives in multigenerational housing on the Higher West Aspect and yearns for her personal condo, her response to the grand coverage pronouncements was extra muted than hopeful. “They keep saying that,” Figueroa stated of the bold plans, “but what I keep seeing is a lot of luxury buildings going up, all over the place.”
Reactions from coverage analysts and different observers have been equally restrained, with some noting the herculean job of fixing course in a metropolis the place financial inequality is a defining characteristic from neighborhood to neighborhood. On the identical time, there was some appreciation that the 2 leaders, of their coverage prescriptions, have been not less than sounding the identical notes.
“Gov. Hochul’s priorities – public safety, affordable housing, and the mental health crisis – are in line with the top concerns of New York’s major employers,” stated Kathryn Wylde, the president of the pro-business group Partnership for New York Metropolis, in a press release. “These points symbolize the most important post-pandemic risk to the livability and financial vitality of our metropolis and state.”
Kellie Leeson, a co-lead organizer with the progressive grassroots group Empire State Indivisible, sounded a hopeful note. “It is positive that the conversation is shifting to recognize that it can’t be business as usual,” Leeson said.
But there also were expressions of frustration.
“We’re concerned that just emphasizing 800,000 units or 500,000 units without specifying the income-targeting and affordability levels of those units is repeating mistakes of the past,” said Jacquelyn Simone, the policy director at xthe Coalition for the Homeless,. “So we would hope that the mayor and governor are more specific in ensuring that they’re producing deeply subsidized, affordable housing for the people who need it the most.”
‘Cutting red tape’
Hochul’s plans, which were announced on Tuesday, included requiring New York City and its surrounding suburbs to expand their housing stock by 3% over each of the next three years. Under federal fair housing guidelines, suburban communities are obligated to consider the housing needs of surrounding communities, but have been notoriously slow to add housing, particularly of the affordable kind.
Hochul also said she’d seek a replacement to 421-a, a controversial tax break that slashed developers’ property taxes in exchange for hitting modest affordable housing goals, and which expired last year. Like the governor, Adams, who unveiled what has been described as a “no-frills” budget last week, has proposed easing zoning restrictions that stymie the creation of new housing. He is also pushing for the conversion of office buildings into as many as 20,000 new apartments.
During his State of the City speech on Thursday, Adams said, “New Yorkers have been suffering from our housing crisis for far too long.”
“We are cutting red tape to make it easier to build and upgrade affordable homes for New Yorkers,” he added, “and we are assisting our low-income neighborhoods with down payments, tenant protections and more through our ‘Housing Our Neighbors’ and ‘Get Stuff Built’ initiatives.”
Leeson said she was heartened by Hochul’s statement that “housing is a human right.” As with childcare and mental health care, Leeson said, the state’s affordable housing crisis has been building “for the last couple of decades” before exploding during the pandemic, something she frequently heard from voters during an unsuccessful run for state Assembly last year.
“There definitely is critical mass that this is not working and we need to do something different,” Leeson said. “We’ve always known New York is expensive. Right now, it’s just too much.”
For Hochul and Adams, the proposals are a follow-up to the wide-ranging report they unveiled in December that called for a “reimagining” of Midtown and Lower Manhattan as neighborhoods “where people live, work and play 24/7.”
Their action plan, which is aimed partly at countering an expected continuing soft demand in Midtown and Lower Manhattan office space, also calls for a wider variety of jobs in the central business district, as well as more affordable housing, something Hochul acknowledged was available to earlier generations of working families in a way it isn’t today.
Sticking with the theme of reaching out to New Yorkers with fewer resources, Hochul said in her State of the State address, “As a matter of equity and social justice, I’m proposing a plan to peg the minimal wage to inflation.” She acquired a standing ovation.
“My parents started married life in a trailer park,” she stated throughout her State of the State handle. “On my dad’s salary from the steel plant, they eventually were able to live in a tiny upstairs flat. And from there, they saved up and got a little Cape Cod house. As we grew older and my dad changed jobs, I watched my parents’ success unfold through the progression of homes they could afford.”
However housing advocates say New York wants extra on the coverage entrance, together with extra quick tenant protections. These embrace “Good Cause Eviction,” a invoice that was launched in Albany as a approach of stopping steep hire hikes for an estimated 1.6 million households however has confronted regular opposition from actual property teams. One other is the Housing Entry Voucher Program, a rental help voucher that Hochul has reportedly stated could be too costly to fund however which has the assist of housing organizations.
Some advocates stated Hochul’s proposals failed to acknowledge the urgency of the housing disaster.
“Hochul’s plan will take decades and totally ignores tenants’ pain right now,” stated Andrea Shapiro, the director of packages and advocacy on the Met Council on Housing.
For Shapiro and others, authorities interventions are crucial, given the scarcity of housing inventory.
“New York City is in a housing emergency, which means we have less than 5% vacancy, this means we are fundamentally a landlord’s market,” stated Shapiro in an e-mail. “The free market can’t work. That is why we have the rent laws, they are anti-price gouging measures.”
Rely Figueroa amongst these on the lookout for solutions – some of which can come as state lawmakers, members of the Metropolis Council, group boards and others maintain public hearings and hash out the plans’ particulars.
Having lengthy doubled up on the Higher West Aspect together with her sister, nephew and 86-year-old mom by way of the course of the pandemic, whereas additionally elevating a preteen daughter, Figueroa stated she yearns for her personal condo however is cautious of inserting an excessive amount of inventory in elected officers.
Figueroa has a grasp’s diploma in theology. She serves as a pastor for a Hispanic ministry and has additionally taught ESL lessons, however noticed her hours lowered significantly early within the pandemic. Final yr, she stated she earned round $30,000. The lack to afford her personal place has been a supply of frustration. She stated others in her circle face related struggles.
“I have a friend who was telling me sometimes she just can’t eat,” stated Figueroa, “because she has to pay the rent.”