BY JOSEPH STRASBURG
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s housing policies have been more about politics than substance. When you separate the myths from the facts, de Blasio’s affordable housing plan is filled with politically driven re-election gimmicks that are failing tenants most in need.
Consider that 168,000 wealthy tenants with annual incomes of $100,000-plus occupy nearly 20 percent of all rent-regulated apartments, while 172,000 poor households with annual incomes of less than $25,000 can’t get the affordable housing they need.
So, who are de Blasio and the so-called tenant advocates really protecting?
Even the Metropolitan Council on Housing says that de Blasio’s housing program will yield a grossly inadequate amount of housing for the people who need it most.
The mayor claims that keeping New Yorkers in their homes has been his top priority and that his rent freeze program accomplishes that. The numbers tell a very different story.
De Blasio’s rent freeze program and policies have produced the highest homeless levels in New York City since The Great Depression—with 61,935 New Yorkers, of whom 23,445 are children, currently in the city’s shelter system.
Affordability for All, a coalition of tenant groups, said that, at a time of record homelessness, de Blasio’s self-congratulatory victory lap on affordable housing is offensive and wrong.
De Blasio and other politicians—such as State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie—say that rents need to be kept affordable or families will be pushed out of their homes. Some in government recognize the issue is low income—not high—rents.
The subsidy program, “Home Stability Support,” proposed by Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi and Senator Jeffrey Klein, would address the city’s record homelessness by providing a federal and state-funded rent subsidy for tenants who are facing homelessness or eviction—a real rent relief program that would keep the poorest, income-challenged families in their homes.
Another proposal, the “Tenant Rent Increase Exemption” (TRIE) program, which has passed unanimously twice in the state Senate, would provide a permanent rent subsidy to all tenants (not just senior citizens and the disabled) with annual incomes of $50,000 or less who pay half their income toward rent.
Why aren’t de Blasio, Heastie and the City Council supporting these sound Albany proposals that would keep poor and income-challenged tenants in their homes and provide rent relief as well as real solutions to the homeless crisis?
Perhaps, the greatest hypocrisy of all is the de Blasio mantra of affordable housing and income equality for all New Yorkers. The caveat: as long as it doesn’t affect his bank account.
As mayor, de Blasio directed—he has admitted as much—the Rent Guidelines Board, which is supposed to operate independently of City Hall influence, to vote for rent freezes in 2015 and 2016. But landlord de Blasio has continued to raise rents of his tenants in two homes he owns in Park Slope to cover operating and repair costs.
Denying fair rent increases to the landlords of one million rent-stabilized apartments prevents the largest providers of affordable housing in the five boroughs from repairing, improving and maintaining their buildings.
Besides re-investing in their buildings, nearly 40 percent of rent revenue goes directly to the city for property taxes and water rates—which de Blasio has raised 17 percent and 12 percent, respectively, over the past three years—and that revenue, in turn, pays for education, fire, police and other city services.
This recurring theme of de Blasio’s housing affordability plan being trumped by politics and hypocrisy will push more tenants out of their homes, destroy the largest segment of affordable housing and negatively impact city services.
Joseph Strasburg is president of the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents 25,000 owners of one million rent-stabilized apartments, the largest providers of affordable housing in the five boroughs.