Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/housing 2018-09-24T10:07:20+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com To Make New York City More Affordable, End the Cap on Density 2018-05-17T04:00:00+00:00 2018-05-17T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7679:to-make-new-york-city-more-affordable-end-the-cap-on-density Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/far-rockaway-queens-mayors-office.jpg" alt="far rockaway queens mayors office" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(Benjamin Kanter/Mayoral Photo Office)</p> <hr /> <p>New York’s severe housing crisis can be traced to a simple fact—our city doesn’t have enough homes for the people who want to live here. The shortage has led to ever-increasing rents, the steady displacement of long-standing communities, and levels of homelessness not seen since the Great Depression. To put it bluntly, we need to build more homes. Lots of them. Affordable and market rate. Yesterday.</p> <p>One senseless obstacle to new housing is a statewide cap on the density of new residential construction. <a href="http://library.rpa.org/pdf/RPA-12-FAR.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Since 1961</a>, New York has prohibited the construction of any residential building that has floor space greater than 12 times the size of its lot. This limit is ill-suited for New York City, which needs to allow larger residential buildings to house its growing population in neighborhoods with good transit and good schools. The Regional Plan Association, a respected and nonpartisan think tank, <a href="http://www.rpa.org/article/rpa-supports-lifting-far-120-cap-in-new-york-city-on-residential-development" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has called for the repeal of this cap</a>, arguing that without more dense construction, displacement in gentrifying neighborhoods will accelerate and the City will choke on worsened congestion.</p> <p>It is encouraging that Mayor de Blasio and <a href="https://therealdeal.com/2018/03/27/state-senate-wants-more-nyc-residential-towers/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the state Senate have signaled</a> support for ending these restrictions. Unfortunately, Andrew Berman, Executive Director of The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), recently published <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7633-the-mayor-s-mistaken-attempt-to-supersize-buildings" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an op-ed with Gotham Gazette</a> that includes several misleading arguments in favor of the density cap. Berman argues that fighting against new housing will somehow result in a more affordable city. He is mistaken; while new highrises will not single-handedly fix New York’s affordability problem, they deserve to be recognized as a serious tool for addressing the housing crisis.</p> <p>In a shortage, the rich, whether they be landlords, wealthy tenants, or homeowners, always win. In a housing glut, tenants win. Denser buildings would produce more housing units, a substantial portion of which would be permanently affordable through the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing law. Before leaving office in 2016, the Obama Administration <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/images/Housing_Development_Toolkit%20f.2.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">published an analysis of the barriers to new construction of affordable housing</a>, and the most destructive factor they identified were burdensome restrictions on the size and shape of new buildings, like those Mr. Berman endorses.</p> <p>Many readers may be skeptical of the idea that new market-rate homes help keep rents low, but studies have shown that denser, market-rate apartments in in-demand neighborhoods relieve pressure on existing homes citywide. <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-12/pick-a-new-york-city-borough-rents-are-falling-there-and-fast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Recent construction has lowered median rents</a> across Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens, not just the top of the market. And south of 96 Street, the<a href="https://www.zumper.com/blog/2017/10/new-york-city-neighborhood-rent-prices-mapped-fall-2017/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> most affordable neighborhoods</a> also happen to be<a href="http://mycrains.crainsnewyork.com/stats-and-the-city/2013/demographics/most-crowded-neighborhoods-in-nyc" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> the densest</a>—the Upper East Side and the Lower East Side—and not, tellingly, neighborhoods hemmed in by ‘historic’ zoning, like Mr. Berman’s Greenwich Village.</p> <p>If we don't produce enough new market-rate units, the people who might move into a new condo building in Downtown Brooklyn might instead buy a converted brownstone In Crown Heights, displacing existing Crown Heights residents in the process. People who might want to live on the Upper West Side are priced out and move into West Harlem instead. Forbidding dense development in one neighborhood is a recipe for gentrification in the next one over. Members of my organization, <a href="http://opennewyork.city/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Open New York</a>, have experienced this first-hand. Some of us, priced out of neighborhoods like Kips Bay, have become reluctant gentrifiers of Bushwick or Bed-Stuy. Others, like myself in the East Village, worry about our rents rising and facing the same fate.</p> <p>Although unscrupulous landlords or rapacious speculators hardly help matters, the unfortunate truth is that the city’s housing crisis and the displacement it has wrought are primarily caused by these kinds of restrictions. Wealthy and politically-connected residents in desirable neighborhoods consistently use these laws to thwart the construction of new housing under the guise of ‘preserving neighborhood character,’ keeping their communities exclusive and pushing both new residents and their communities’ most vulnerable residents into less well-off areas. The result is gentrification and skyrocketing rents. New York needs to consider another way.</p> <p>Lifting the state density cap would not affect residents’ right to have a say in new development. Any changes to a neighborhood’s zoning would still have to go through the regular land-use process&nbsp;and be approved by the City Council, and the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing law would still apply, ensuring any changes include a mix of affordable and market rate units. But eliminating the ban would give residents more flexibility to decide how to grow, whereas keeping it forces us to double down on the same failed policies of exclusion. Rather than looking to Greenwich Village—one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the city—as a model to emulate, we should be working to eliminate the barriers to affordable growth. Removing this counterproductive restriction on density is a good first step.</p> <p>***<br /> William Thomas is&nbsp;an East Village resident and a member of&nbsp;<a href="http://opennewyork.city/" target="_blank" rel="noopener" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=http://opennewyork.city/&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1526677487994000&amp;usg=AFQjCNEBMFgKAnOY_6Y3RmPUwg6valJWMg">Open New York</a>, an independent pro-housing advocacy group. On Twitter,&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/OpenNYForAll" target="_blank" rel="noopener" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://twitter.com/OpenNYForAll&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1526677487994000&amp;usg=AFQjCNEtsP_hwVd6GyS01ngTg4or8YU05w">@OpenNYForAll</a>.</p> <p>

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/far-rockaway-queens-mayors-office.jpg" alt="far rockaway queens mayors office" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(Benjamin Kanter/Mayoral Photo Office)</p> <hr /> <p>New York’s severe housing crisis can be traced to a simple fact—our city doesn’t have enough homes for the people who want to live here. The shortage has led to ever-increasing rents, the steady displacement of long-standing communities, and levels of homelessness not seen since the Great Depression. To put it bluntly, we need to build more homes. Lots of them. Affordable and market rate. Yesterday.</p> <p>One senseless obstacle to new housing is a statewide cap on the density of new residential construction. <a href="http://library.rpa.org/pdf/RPA-12-FAR.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Since 1961</a>, New York has prohibited the construction of any residential building that has floor space greater than 12 times the size of its lot. This limit is ill-suited for New York City, which needs to allow larger residential buildings to house its growing population in neighborhoods with good transit and good schools. The Regional Plan Association, a respected and nonpartisan think tank, <a href="http://www.rpa.org/article/rpa-supports-lifting-far-120-cap-in-new-york-city-on-residential-development" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has called for the repeal of this cap</a>, arguing that without more dense construction, displacement in gentrifying neighborhoods will accelerate and the City will choke on worsened congestion.</p> <p>It is encouraging that Mayor de Blasio and <a href="https://therealdeal.com/2018/03/27/state-senate-wants-more-nyc-residential-towers/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the state Senate have signaled</a> support for ending these restrictions. Unfortunately, Andrew Berman, Executive Director of The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), recently published <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7633-the-mayor-s-mistaken-attempt-to-supersize-buildings" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an op-ed with Gotham Gazette</a> that includes several misleading arguments in favor of the density cap. Berman argues that fighting against new housing will somehow result in a more affordable city. He is mistaken; while new highrises will not single-handedly fix New York’s affordability problem, they deserve to be recognized as a serious tool for addressing the housing crisis.</p> <p>In a shortage, the rich, whether they be landlords, wealthy tenants, or homeowners, always win. In a housing glut, tenants win. Denser buildings would produce more housing units, a substantial portion of which would be permanently affordable through the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing law. Before leaving office in 2016, the Obama Administration <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/images/Housing_Development_Toolkit%20f.2.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">published an analysis of the barriers to new construction of affordable housing</a>, and the most destructive factor they identified were burdensome restrictions on the size and shape of new buildings, like those Mr. Berman endorses.</p> <p>Many readers may be skeptical of the idea that new market-rate homes help keep rents low, but studies have shown that denser, market-rate apartments in in-demand neighborhoods relieve pressure on existing homes citywide. <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-12/pick-a-new-york-city-borough-rents-are-falling-there-and-fast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Recent construction has lowered median rents</a> across Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens, not just the top of the market. And south of 96 Street, the<a href="https://www.zumper.com/blog/2017/10/new-york-city-neighborhood-rent-prices-mapped-fall-2017/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> most affordable neighborhoods</a> also happen to be<a href="http://mycrains.crainsnewyork.com/stats-and-the-city/2013/demographics/most-crowded-neighborhoods-in-nyc" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> the densest</a>—the Upper East Side and the Lower East Side—and not, tellingly, neighborhoods hemmed in by ‘historic’ zoning, like Mr. Berman’s Greenwich Village.</p> <p>If we don't produce enough new market-rate units, the people who might move into a new condo building in Downtown Brooklyn might instead buy a converted brownstone In Crown Heights, displacing existing Crown Heights residents in the process. People who might want to live on the Upper West Side are priced out and move into West Harlem instead. Forbidding dense development in one neighborhood is a recipe for gentrification in the next one over. Members of my organization, <a href="http://opennewyork.city/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Open New York</a>, have experienced this first-hand. Some of us, priced out of neighborhoods like Kips Bay, have become reluctant gentrifiers of Bushwick or Bed-Stuy. Others, like myself in the East Village, worry about our rents rising and facing the same fate.</p> <p>Although unscrupulous landlords or rapacious speculators hardly help matters, the unfortunate truth is that the city’s housing crisis and the displacement it has wrought are primarily caused by these kinds of restrictions. Wealthy and politically-connected residents in desirable neighborhoods consistently use these laws to thwart the construction of new housing under the guise of ‘preserving neighborhood character,’ keeping their communities exclusive and pushing both new residents and their communities’ most vulnerable residents into less well-off areas. The result is gentrification and skyrocketing rents. New York needs to consider another way.</p> <p>Lifting the state density cap would not affect residents’ right to have a say in new development. Any changes to a neighborhood’s zoning would still have to go through the regular land-use process&nbsp;and be approved by the City Council, and the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing law would still apply, ensuring any changes include a mix of affordable and market rate units. But eliminating the ban would give residents more flexibility to decide how to grow, whereas keeping it forces us to double down on the same failed policies of exclusion. Rather than looking to Greenwich Village—one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the city—as a model to emulate, we should be working to eliminate the barriers to affordable growth. Removing this counterproductive restriction on density is a good first step.</p> <p>***<br /> William Thomas is&nbsp;an East Village resident and a member of&nbsp;<a href="http://opennewyork.city/" target="_blank" rel="noopener" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=http://opennewyork.city/&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1526677487994000&amp;usg=AFQjCNEBMFgKAnOY_6Y3RmPUwg6valJWMg">Open New York</a>, an independent pro-housing advocacy group. On Twitter,&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/OpenNYForAll" target="_blank" rel="noopener" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://twitter.com/OpenNYForAll&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1526677487994000&amp;usg=AFQjCNEtsP_hwVd6GyS01ngTg4or8YU05w">@OpenNYForAll</a>.</p> <p>

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</p>
The Mayor's Mistaken Attempt to Supersize Buildings 2018-04-24T04:00:00+00:00 2018-04-24T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7633:the-mayor-s-mistaken-attempt-to-supersize-buildings Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mbdb-hanac.jpg" alt="mbdb hanac" width="640" height="427" /></p> <p>(Credit: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Nearly every day it seems, a new record is broken for a tallest new residential structure in our city. Whether it is <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/20/nyregion/proposal-for-brooklyns-tallest-tower-is-approved.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Downtown Brooklyn’s first 1,000+ foot tall tower</a>, <a href="https://newyorkyimby.com/2018/04/new-design-revealed-for-dursts-queens-plaza-park-tower-boroughs-future-tallest-skyscraper.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Queens’ tallest tower in Long Island City</a>, or the 1,550 foot tall West 57 Street residential tower that will soon rise <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Park_Tower" target="_blank" rel="noopener">higher than the top floor of One World Trade Center</a>, residential building in New York City is reaching new heights.</p> <p>But for Mayor de Blasio and the real estate industry, even these record-breaking heights are not enough. They are advocating for repealing a 60-year-old state law, which, while capping the size of residential developments in New York City, is still so generous as to allow the unprecedented giants going up now.</p> <p>If the mayor and the real estate industry have their way, the sky could literally be the limit for residential high-rises in New York City. And not just in Midtown or the Financial District, but residential neighborhoods like the Upper East Side and Upper West Side, Greenwich Village, and various parts of Brooklyn and Queens, where current rules limit new residential development to at or near the cap imposed by state law.</p> <p>The possibility is more than theoretical. Two years ago proponents of lifting the cap came close to getting the State Legislature to do so. This year the State Senate pushed for the measure to be included in the state budget, but the Assembly ultimately did not go along with it (though the cap removal definitely has its <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/housing-density-answer-article-1.3825784" target="_blank" rel="noopener">proponents in the Assembly majority</a>). Most observers expect the supporters of lifting the cap to push the measure again before the state legislative session ends in June, possibly as part of the “big ugly” – the annual package of often unrelated and controversial measures passed in the final hours of legislative session, with little public notice or input.</p> <p>With all the problems facing New York City right now, from dysfunctional subways to crumbling public housing to crippling congestion, why is this an issue the mayor has chosen to take on?</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio and some of the proponents of lifting the cap claim it’s necessary to build affordable housing. &nbsp;But not because they want affordable housing developments that exceed the current record-breaking heights. Because they want to allow real estate developers to build vastly larger for-profit, luxury housing developments. &nbsp;In return, they will require them to attach a comparatively small amount of affordable housing to the development.</p> <p>This is a false dichotomy that the real estate industry has promulgated and the mayor has endorsed – that the best and, in many cases, only way to get new affordable housing out of for-profit developers across the city is by supersizing the amount of luxury, market-rate housing they can build, and then attaching these smaller amounts of affordable housing to it.</p> <p>It’s due to this approach that communities throughout New York City have opposed the mayor’s rezoning plans – both because they would destroy the scale and character of their neighborhoods, and because under the guise of introducing “affordable housing” (which in many cases is unaffordable to the residents of the neighborhood), vastly increased quantities of very expensive housing is built, which more than counteracts any good done by the relatively small amount of affordable housing created.</p> <p>Take Greenwich Village and the East Village. These increasingly wealthy neighborhoods with decreasing affordable housing have been begging the mayor to support a zoning plan we have proposed that would allow modest increases in the allowable size of developments as a condition for creating or preserving affordable housing. The mayor has adamantly opposed the plan, saying he would only be willing to consider the kind of massive increases in the allowable size of residential development that would bump up against the current state cap, to say nothing of destroying the character of these human-scaled neighborhoods.</p> <p>Don’t let the mayor or Big Real Estate fool you. The state cap on the size of New York City residential buildings is not limiting anything New Yorkers should be worried about. The only thing it’s limiting is the already astronomical profits of developers, and the ambitions of some politicians to increase them even further.</p> <p>***<br /> Andrew Berman is Executive Director of<a href="http://www.gvshp.org/_gvshp/index.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation</a>. On Twitter<a href="https://twitter.com/GVSHP" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> @GVSHP</a>.</p> <p>

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mbdb-hanac.jpg" alt="mbdb hanac" width="640" height="427" /></p> <p>(Credit: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Nearly every day it seems, a new record is broken for a tallest new residential structure in our city. Whether it is <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/20/nyregion/proposal-for-brooklyns-tallest-tower-is-approved.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Downtown Brooklyn’s first 1,000+ foot tall tower</a>, <a href="https://newyorkyimby.com/2018/04/new-design-revealed-for-dursts-queens-plaza-park-tower-boroughs-future-tallest-skyscraper.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Queens’ tallest tower in Long Island City</a>, or the 1,550 foot tall West 57 Street residential tower that will soon rise <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Park_Tower" target="_blank" rel="noopener">higher than the top floor of One World Trade Center</a>, residential building in New York City is reaching new heights.</p> <p>But for Mayor de Blasio and the real estate industry, even these record-breaking heights are not enough. They are advocating for repealing a 60-year-old state law, which, while capping the size of residential developments in New York City, is still so generous as to allow the unprecedented giants going up now.</p> <p>If the mayor and the real estate industry have their way, the sky could literally be the limit for residential high-rises in New York City. And not just in Midtown or the Financial District, but residential neighborhoods like the Upper East Side and Upper West Side, Greenwich Village, and various parts of Brooklyn and Queens, where current rules limit new residential development to at or near the cap imposed by state law.</p> <p>The possibility is more than theoretical. Two years ago proponents of lifting the cap came close to getting the State Legislature to do so. This year the State Senate pushed for the measure to be included in the state budget, but the Assembly ultimately did not go along with it (though the cap removal definitely has its <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/housing-density-answer-article-1.3825784" target="_blank" rel="noopener">proponents in the Assembly majority</a>). Most observers expect the supporters of lifting the cap to push the measure again before the state legislative session ends in June, possibly as part of the “big ugly” – the annual package of often unrelated and controversial measures passed in the final hours of legislative session, with little public notice or input.</p> <p>With all the problems facing New York City right now, from dysfunctional subways to crumbling public housing to crippling congestion, why is this an issue the mayor has chosen to take on?</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio and some of the proponents of lifting the cap claim it’s necessary to build affordable housing. &nbsp;But not because they want affordable housing developments that exceed the current record-breaking heights. Because they want to allow real estate developers to build vastly larger for-profit, luxury housing developments. &nbsp;In return, they will require them to attach a comparatively small amount of affordable housing to the development.</p> <p>This is a false dichotomy that the real estate industry has promulgated and the mayor has endorsed – that the best and, in many cases, only way to get new affordable housing out of for-profit developers across the city is by supersizing the amount of luxury, market-rate housing they can build, and then attaching these smaller amounts of affordable housing to it.</p> <p>It’s due to this approach that communities throughout New York City have opposed the mayor’s rezoning plans – both because they would destroy the scale and character of their neighborhoods, and because under the guise of introducing “affordable housing” (which in many cases is unaffordable to the residents of the neighborhood), vastly increased quantities of very expensive housing is built, which more than counteracts any good done by the relatively small amount of affordable housing created.</p> <p>Take Greenwich Village and the East Village. These increasingly wealthy neighborhoods with decreasing affordable housing have been begging the mayor to support a zoning plan we have proposed that would allow modest increases in the allowable size of developments as a condition for creating or preserving affordable housing. The mayor has adamantly opposed the plan, saying he would only be willing to consider the kind of massive increases in the allowable size of residential development that would bump up against the current state cap, to say nothing of destroying the character of these human-scaled neighborhoods.</p> <p>Don’t let the mayor or Big Real Estate fool you. The state cap on the size of New York City residential buildings is not limiting anything New Yorkers should be worried about. The only thing it’s limiting is the already astronomical profits of developers, and the ambitions of some politicians to increase them even further.</p> <p>***<br /> Andrew Berman is Executive Director of<a href="http://www.gvshp.org/_gvshp/index.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation</a>. On Twitter<a href="https://twitter.com/GVSHP" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> @GVSHP</a>.</p> <p>

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Max & Murphy Podcast: NYCHA CEO Shola Olatoye 2017-12-07T05:00:00+00:00 2017-12-07T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7355:max-murphy-podcast-nycha-ceo-shola-olatoye Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette, and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>December 7, 2017 - Max &amp; Murphy: NYCHA CEO Shola Olatoye<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/podcast/shola-olayote-277.jpg" alt="shola olayote 277" width="277" height="143" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>NYCHA Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye has been at the center of a firestorm lately related to the public housing authority's lapses in lead paint inspections, violating federal and city laws, filing faulty documentation, and not telling NYCHA residents and the public about the years-long gaps as soon as leadership discovered them.</p> <p>Olatoye faced hours of questioning at a City Council oversight hearing on Tuesday, then joined the podcast on Thursday for some follow-up and other questions about the lead paint situation and more. Olatoye discusses whether she and NYCHA need to regain residents' trust, whether she offered Mayor Bill de Blasio her resignation, and where the conversation around NYCHA -- home to more than 400,000 New Yorkers -- needs to go next.</p> <p>Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@jarrettmurphy</a>&nbsp;and guest <a href="https://twitter.com/SholaOlatoye" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@SholaOlatoye</a> of <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCHA" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@NYCHA</a>. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/366388889&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette, and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>December 7, 2017 - Max &amp; Murphy: NYCHA CEO Shola Olatoye<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/podcast/shola-olayote-277.jpg" alt="shola olayote 277" width="277" height="143" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>NYCHA Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye has been at the center of a firestorm lately related to the public housing authority's lapses in lead paint inspections, violating federal and city laws, filing faulty documentation, and not telling NYCHA residents and the public about the years-long gaps as soon as leadership discovered them.</p> <p>Olatoye faced hours of questioning at a City Council oversight hearing on Tuesday, then joined the podcast on Thursday for some follow-up and other questions about the lead paint situation and more. Olatoye discusses whether she and NYCHA need to regain residents' trust, whether she offered Mayor Bill de Blasio her resignation, and where the conversation around NYCHA -- home to more than 400,000 New Yorkers -- needs to go next.</p> <p>Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@jarrettmurphy</a>&nbsp;and guest <a href="https://twitter.com/SholaOlatoye" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@SholaOlatoye</a> of <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCHA" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@NYCHA</a>. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/366388889&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
What’s The [DATA] Point? 77,651, with the City Housing Commissioner 2017-09-21T04:00:00+00:00 2017-09-21T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7206:what-s-the-data-point-77-651-with-the-city-housing-commissioner Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/whats-the-data-point.jpg" alt="whats the data point" width="600" height="600" /></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What's The Data Point? Episode 12</strong><strong>&nbsp;- <b>77,651</b> with&nbsp;<b>Maria Torres-Springer, housing commissioner in the de Blasio administration</b>&nbsp;</strong>[You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]</p> <p>For this episode of the podcast, we bring you excerpts of a speech the city's housing commissioner, Maria Torres-Springer, gave at a Citizens Budget Commission event on Wednesday, September 20, followed by 15 minutes of Q-and-A with the commissioner. You'll hear a brief introduction of the episode's data point, followed by portions of Torres-Springer's speech, which was focused on the de Blasio administration's affordable housing program, and then Torres-Springer answering questions from Gotham Gazette and CBC. Make sure to stay tuned for the Q-and-A, which includes several interesting exchanges.</p> <p>Throughout both parts, Torres-Springer explains progress being made on one of the administration's most ambitious goals, building or preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing over 10 years, discusses challenges the city is facing, including potential federal funding cuts, and much more. She discusses the administration's plans to rezone neighborhoods in order to add more housing, what the city needs from the state, and much more.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (<a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a>) &amp; CBC (<a href="https://twitter.com/cbcny">@cbcny</a>) &amp; guest Maria Torres-Springer (<a href="https://twitter.com/MTorresSpringer" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@MTorresSpringer</a> of <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCHousing" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@NYCHousing</a>). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/343438625&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="300" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/whats-the-data-point.jpg" alt="whats the data point" width="600" height="600" /></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What's The Data Point? Episode 12</strong><strong>&nbsp;- <b>77,651</b> with&nbsp;<b>Maria Torres-Springer, housing commissioner in the de Blasio administration</b>&nbsp;</strong>[You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]</p> <p>For this episode of the podcast, we bring you excerpts of a speech the city's housing commissioner, Maria Torres-Springer, gave at a Citizens Budget Commission event on Wednesday, September 20, followed by 15 minutes of Q-and-A with the commissioner. You'll hear a brief introduction of the episode's data point, followed by portions of Torres-Springer's speech, which was focused on the de Blasio administration's affordable housing program, and then Torres-Springer answering questions from Gotham Gazette and CBC. Make sure to stay tuned for the Q-and-A, which includes several interesting exchanges.</p> <p>Throughout both parts, Torres-Springer explains progress being made on one of the administration's most ambitious goals, building or preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing over 10 years, discusses challenges the city is facing, including potential federal funding cuts, and much more. She discusses the administration's plans to rezone neighborhoods in order to add more housing, what the city needs from the state, and much more.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (<a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a>) &amp; CBC (<a href="https://twitter.com/cbcny">@cbcny</a>) &amp; guest Maria Torres-Springer (<a href="https://twitter.com/MTorresSpringer" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@MTorresSpringer</a> of <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCHousing" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@NYCHousing</a>). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/343438625&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="300" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Max & Murphy on Politics 2017-06-01T04:00:00+00:00 2017-06-01T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6183:max-a-murphy-on-housing Carmen Russo <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/max-murphy-housing.jpg" alt="max murphy screenshots" width="600" height="240" style="font-size: 12.16px;" /></p> <p>Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette</p> <hr /> <p>Each week, Ben Max of Gotham Gazette and Jarrett Murphy of City Limits discuss the latest on policy and politics in New York.&nbsp;Episodes, which are typically 10-15 minutes, began in February, 2016 with a focus on housing, but have expanded to other topics. Episodes are below, and can also be found on iTunes and other podcast networks. LISTEN:</p> <p><strong>June 1st, 2017: Election Season is Here!</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/325575488&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>May 25th, 2017: De Blasio in the Bronx; City's Transit System Becomes a Focus</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/324498315&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>May 17th, 2017: The Mayor's Homelessness Plan &amp; Election Year Politics</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/323070985&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>May 8th, 2017: Controversy at Correction; The Latest in the Mayoral Race; Rezoning Politics; Stalled Voting Reforms; &amp; More:</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/321573277&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>April 21, 2017: De Blasio Versus the Media, Re-election Year News, &amp; The Mayor in the Boroughs</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/318826130&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>March 9th, 2017: Federal cuts looming? 421-a debates &amp; the Mayor's new approach to homelessness</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/311585999&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>January 19th, 2017</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/303542171&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>December 2, 2016: 421-A Back from the Dead? New $ for Public Housing, and ZoneIn!</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/295897990&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>October 27, 2016: What's at stake for New York City on Election Day?</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/290255553&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>August 12, 2016: New York City Homeownership Trends, MIH gets real, and more:</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/278002906&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>July 26, 2016: With the presidential campaign in full swing and the national party platforms adopted, Max &amp; Murphy are joined by Rachel Fee, executive director of the New York Housing Conference, to discuss federal housing policy and how it relates to New York:</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/275446551&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>June 23, 2016: In a special episode, we were joined by two leaders of Coalition for the Homeless, Mary Brosnahan and Shelly Nortz, to discuss a wide range of issues related to city and state homelessness-fighting policies, including problems around state funding and signs of progress with city management:</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/270557367&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>June 16, 2016: The Latest at NYCHA, from its Chair &amp; CEO</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/269593193&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>June 9, 2016: A Lot to Watch for On Housing: Next Rezonings, New Legislation, State MOU?</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/268311634&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong> May 26, 2016: Tenant Protection Efforts and Signs of Progress at NYCHA</strong> <iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/266078255&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>May 12, 2016: NYCHA's 'Core Challenge' with guest Ritchie Torres, New York City Council member and chair of the public housing committee</strong>&nbsp; <iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/263810263&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>May 4, 2016: A Lot in the Spring Balance</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/262502772&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>April 21, 2016: Presidential Candidates Visit Public Housing; Next Up: 421-A</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/260200696&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>April 8, 2016: The presidential primaries are here - in New York!</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/257974360&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>April 1, 2016: Big Housing $ in the State Budget</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/256765057&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>March 25, 2016: Putting MIH Into Context</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/254998332&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>March 18, 2016: Good and Bad News for Mayor de Blasio</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/252720407&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>March 10, 2016: The Politics of De Blasio's Housing Plan Heats Up</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/251187336&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>March 4, 2016: Governor Cuomo Casts a Shadow Over Housing Hearing</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/250186524&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>Feb. 26, 2016: Amid fears of gentrification, neighborhood plans move ahead</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/249032794&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>Feb. 19, 2016: As the City Council deliberates, neighborhood planning heats up</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/247884112&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>Feb. 12, 2016: The City Council hears two major de Blasio zoning proposals</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/246587724&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>You can find more from Ben Max and Jarrett Murphy by visiting the latest reporting <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">from Gotham Gazette</a> and <a href="http://citylimits.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">from City Limits</a>; and find us on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/max-murphy-housing.jpg" alt="max murphy screenshots" width="600" height="240" style="font-size: 12.16px;" /></p> <p>Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette</p> <hr /> <p>Each week, Ben Max of Gotham Gazette and Jarrett Murphy of City Limits discuss the latest on policy and politics in New York.&nbsp;Episodes, which are typically 10-15 minutes, began in February, 2016 with a focus on housing, but have expanded to other topics. Episodes are below, and can also be found on iTunes and other podcast networks. LISTEN:</p> <p><strong>June 1st, 2017: Election Season is Here!</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/325575488&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>May 25th, 2017: De Blasio in the Bronx; City's Transit System Becomes a Focus</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/324498315&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>May 17th, 2017: The Mayor's Homelessness Plan &amp; Election Year Politics</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/323070985&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>May 8th, 2017: Controversy at Correction; The Latest in the Mayoral Race; Rezoning Politics; Stalled Voting Reforms; &amp; More:</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/321573277&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>April 21, 2017: De Blasio Versus the Media, Re-election Year News, &amp; The Mayor in the Boroughs</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/318826130&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>March 9th, 2017: Federal cuts looming? 421-a debates &amp; the Mayor's new approach to homelessness</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/311585999&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>January 19th, 2017</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/303542171&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>December 2, 2016: 421-A Back from the Dead? New $ for Public Housing, and ZoneIn!</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/295897990&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>October 27, 2016: What's at stake for New York City on Election Day?</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/290255553&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>August 12, 2016: New York City Homeownership Trends, MIH gets real, and more:</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/278002906&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>July 26, 2016: With the presidential campaign in full swing and the national party platforms adopted, Max &amp; Murphy are joined by Rachel Fee, executive director of the New York Housing Conference, to discuss federal housing policy and how it relates to New York:</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/275446551&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>June 23, 2016: In a special episode, we were joined by two leaders of Coalition for the Homeless, Mary Brosnahan and Shelly Nortz, to discuss a wide range of issues related to city and state homelessness-fighting policies, including problems around state funding and signs of progress with city management:</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/270557367&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>June 16, 2016: The Latest at NYCHA, from its Chair &amp; CEO</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/269593193&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>June 9, 2016: A Lot to Watch for On Housing: Next Rezonings, New Legislation, State MOU?</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/268311634&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong> May 26, 2016: Tenant Protection Efforts and Signs of Progress at NYCHA</strong> <iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/266078255&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>May 12, 2016: NYCHA's 'Core Challenge' with guest Ritchie Torres, New York City Council member and chair of the public housing committee</strong>&nbsp; <iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/263810263&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>May 4, 2016: A Lot in the Spring Balance</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/262502772&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>April 21, 2016: Presidential Candidates Visit Public Housing; Next Up: 421-A</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/260200696&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>April 8, 2016: The presidential primaries are here - in New York!</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/257974360&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>April 1, 2016: Big Housing $ in the State Budget</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/256765057&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>March 25, 2016: Putting MIH Into Context</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/254998332&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>March 18, 2016: Good and Bad News for Mayor de Blasio</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/252720407&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>March 10, 2016: The Politics of De Blasio's Housing Plan Heats Up</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/251187336&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>March 4, 2016: Governor Cuomo Casts a Shadow Over Housing Hearing</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/250186524&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>Feb. 26, 2016: Amid fears of gentrification, neighborhood plans move ahead</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/249032794&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>Feb. 19, 2016: As the City Council deliberates, neighborhood planning heats up</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/247884112&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong>Feb. 12, 2016: The City Council hears two major de Blasio zoning proposals</strong></p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/246587724&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="250" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>You can find more from Ben Max and Jarrett Murphy by visiting the latest reporting <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">from Gotham Gazette</a> and <a href="http://citylimits.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">from City Limits</a>; and find us on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>.</p> Bill Aims to Ensure Heat is On When It Should Be 2016-12-14T05:00:00+00:00 2016-12-14T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6669:bill-aims-to-ensure-heat-is-on-when-it-should-be Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/ritchie_torres_arms_crossed_pink_tie.jpg" alt="ritchie torres arms crossed pink tie" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Ritchie Torres (photo: John McCarten)</p> <hr /> <p>City Council Member Ritchie Torres will introduce a bill on Thursday that aims to ensure landlords follow the law and keep the heat on for tenants when it should be.</p> <p>Torres’ bill, being introduced in partnership with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, would require landlords of buildings with more than three units to install tamper-proof heat sensors in the living room of each unit. These “temperature reporting devices” would be monitored by tenants, landlords, and the city’s housing agency, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).</p> <p>The model for such a device was developed by Heat Seek, a winner of the city’s 2014 BigApps competition. With their legislation, Torres and Adams want to make sure that all tenants have heat when they are supposed to, and to create a new deterrent for landlords who might abuse heat settings as a way to drive tenants out of rent-stabilized housing.</p> <p>“The bill is based on a recognition that laws governing heat and hot water, which are among the most common complaints among tenants, can be the hardest to enforce,” Torres said in an interview on Wednesday.</p> <p>“It's bringing housing code enforcement into the 21st century,” Torres said. “And it’s allowing us to hold unscrupulous owners accountable, and drive down the rate of heat and hot water violations in New York City.”</p> <p>Working with Heat Seek, tenants, and housing lawyers, Adams recently announced a lawsuit against one large Brooklyn landlord whose Brownsville building had a number of heat complaints.</p> <p>Landlords must provide tenants with heat and hot water when the outdoor temperature falls below 55 degrees during the day and below 40 degrees at night during the October 1-May 31 “heat season.” HPD tracks violators.</p> <p>“My message to landlords across New York City is that we’re watching; don’t harm your tenants’ quality of life all because of greed,” Adams said in a statement. “We are using cool technology to warm the homes of Brooklynites, while putting bad-acting landlords on the hot seat for their harassing behavior. I am proud to work with Council Member Torres, the innovative team at Heat Seek NYC, our incredible legal advocates, as well as courageous tenants who are standing up for their housing rights.”</p> <p>As originally drafted, if passed by the Council and signed by the Mayor, the provisions of the bill would go into effect for January 1, 2018. It would require rules to be drafted and contract procurement by HPD (Heat Seek would not be guaranteed the contract for the devices). The bill will be heard in the Committee on Housing and Buildings, which is chaired by Council Member Jumaane Williams. Torres chairs the Committee on Public Housing, but the bill does not apply to the New York City Housing Authority, which is separate from the private landlords the bill is targeting.</p> <p>There are already amendments to the bill being discussed. Most significantly, according to Torres’ office, the bill is likely to be changed so that the temperature monitors are required of landlords with repeated violations related to providing heat, not of all landlords. The idea will be to identify when there has been “willful deprivation of heat and hot water” so that HPD can then monitor it and ensure that landlords are not repeatedly violating the law or driving out tenants. At times, landlords are accused of not providing heat but then raise the heat for HPD inspections. Sensors would allow for regular detection.</p> <p>Torres' office is looking at perhaps coordinating with the Public Advocate' "worst landlord" list that is released each year as those involved seek to identify negligent landlords or landlords that harass tenants.</p> <p>According to data provided by Torres’ office from HPD, last heat season HPD inspectors attempted 117,767 heat-related inspections and wrote 7,548 heat-related violations. HPD completed $2.7 million in heat-related emergency repairs that was charged to building owners and filed 3,151 heat cases in court, collecting $1.7 million in civil penalties against more than 3,100 properties.</p> <p>Heat Seek is looking forward to expanding its work. In a statement, the company said,&nbsp;“Heat Seek is grateful for Councilman Torres’s and President Adams’s forward-thinking approach to solving problems experienced by many New Yorkers. We know that underheated apartments are too common for our neighbors, and we believe that sensor technology has the capacity to change the way landlords provide services for their tenants and how our city enforces the Housing Code."</p> <p>Tenants are encouraged to call 311 to report issues with their heat and their landlords. Some tenants have taken to keeping a "heat log" but the tamper-proof devices from Heat Seek can provide more indisputable evidence.</p> <p>“I think most landlords make good effort to comply with the law,” Torres said, but it will be important to monitor and punish “actors who have a consistent pattern of heat and hot water violations.”</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/ritchie_torres_arms_crossed_pink_tie.jpg" alt="ritchie torres arms crossed pink tie" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Ritchie Torres (photo: John McCarten)</p> <hr /> <p>City Council Member Ritchie Torres will introduce a bill on Thursday that aims to ensure landlords follow the law and keep the heat on for tenants when it should be.</p> <p>Torres’ bill, being introduced in partnership with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, would require landlords of buildings with more than three units to install tamper-proof heat sensors in the living room of each unit. These “temperature reporting devices” would be monitored by tenants, landlords, and the city’s housing agency, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).</p> <p>The model for such a device was developed by Heat Seek, a winner of the city’s 2014 BigApps competition. With their legislation, Torres and Adams want to make sure that all tenants have heat when they are supposed to, and to create a new deterrent for landlords who might abuse heat settings as a way to drive tenants out of rent-stabilized housing.</p> <p>“The bill is based on a recognition that laws governing heat and hot water, which are among the most common complaints among tenants, can be the hardest to enforce,” Torres said in an interview on Wednesday.</p> <p>“It's bringing housing code enforcement into the 21st century,” Torres said. “And it’s allowing us to hold unscrupulous owners accountable, and drive down the rate of heat and hot water violations in New York City.”</p> <p>Working with Heat Seek, tenants, and housing lawyers, Adams recently announced a lawsuit against one large Brooklyn landlord whose Brownsville building had a number of heat complaints.</p> <p>Landlords must provide tenants with heat and hot water when the outdoor temperature falls below 55 degrees during the day and below 40 degrees at night during the October 1-May 31 “heat season.” HPD tracks violators.</p> <p>“My message to landlords across New York City is that we’re watching; don’t harm your tenants’ quality of life all because of greed,” Adams said in a statement. “We are using cool technology to warm the homes of Brooklynites, while putting bad-acting landlords on the hot seat for their harassing behavior. I am proud to work with Council Member Torres, the innovative team at Heat Seek NYC, our incredible legal advocates, as well as courageous tenants who are standing up for their housing rights.”</p> <p>As originally drafted, if passed by the Council and signed by the Mayor, the provisions of the bill would go into effect for January 1, 2018. It would require rules to be drafted and contract procurement by HPD (Heat Seek would not be guaranteed the contract for the devices). The bill will be heard in the Committee on Housing and Buildings, which is chaired by Council Member Jumaane Williams. Torres chairs the Committee on Public Housing, but the bill does not apply to the New York City Housing Authority, which is separate from the private landlords the bill is targeting.</p> <p>There are already amendments to the bill being discussed. Most significantly, according to Torres’ office, the bill is likely to be changed so that the temperature monitors are required of landlords with repeated violations related to providing heat, not of all landlords. The idea will be to identify when there has been “willful deprivation of heat and hot water” so that HPD can then monitor it and ensure that landlords are not repeatedly violating the law or driving out tenants. At times, landlords are accused of not providing heat but then raise the heat for HPD inspections. Sensors would allow for regular detection.</p> <p>Torres' office is looking at perhaps coordinating with the Public Advocate' "worst landlord" list that is released each year as those involved seek to identify negligent landlords or landlords that harass tenants.</p> <p>According to data provided by Torres’ office from HPD, last heat season HPD inspectors attempted 117,767 heat-related inspections and wrote 7,548 heat-related violations. HPD completed $2.7 million in heat-related emergency repairs that was charged to building owners and filed 3,151 heat cases in court, collecting $1.7 million in civil penalties against more than 3,100 properties.</p> <p>Heat Seek is looking forward to expanding its work. In a statement, the company said,&nbsp;“Heat Seek is grateful for Councilman Torres’s and President Adams’s forward-thinking approach to solving problems experienced by many New Yorkers. We know that underheated apartments are too common for our neighbors, and we believe that sensor technology has the capacity to change the way landlords provide services for their tenants and how our city enforces the Housing Code."</p> <p>Tenants are encouraged to call 311 to report issues with their heat and their landlords. Some tenants have taken to keeping a "heat log" but the tamper-proof devices from Heat Seek can provide more indisputable evidence.</p> <p>“I think most landlords make good effort to comply with the law,” Torres said, but it will be important to monitor and punish “actors who have a consistent pattern of heat and hot water violations.”</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
City Should Call an Eviction Moratorium 2016-05-25T04:00:00+00:00 2016-05-25T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6354:new-york-city-should-call-an-eviction-moratorium Aaron Holmes <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/14769319811_04f439bf02_o.jpg" alt="housing" height="398" width="600" /></p> <p>photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/eblake/14769319811/in/photolist-ov7Ce2-7xLAJT-7xQr6J-otmVTQ-8LbhRF-7xQrxW-ng5MpF-7xQqwU-7xLBcP-odV6wp-8Lbin8-7FnSry-61mdcx-61qnWm-5YxWkS-5YxZNJ-61qisy-617SDm-5YtJAc-5YtHiz-cjPPgE-a8m9Ez-5YtLz8-2aAreK-617Pxq-61puS4-647qxz-5Yy17Y-66cjzW-5ZQ8mw-5YtHTZ-8fNNTk-5ZKU1n-5ZF5iE-5YtHL6-613CmH-5Yy229-8Q2MRm-7xLB4F-5YpHua-8yahHf-wDMQrT-5XjwNP-dUF7Ah-8n7DaW-nYVh2x-8n7CJ5-czyewN-nEEiSZ-8LbhWV/" target="_blank">Edward Blake via Flickr</a></p> <hr /> <p>One fear that is prevalent in every borough of New York City is the threat of eviction. Gentrification and the ever increasing housing affordability gap makes staying in an apartment harder and harder each year for thousands of tenants. Evictions are handed down in Housing Court, where the odds do not favor low-income tenants.</p> <p>As of 2015, an estimated <a href="http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/todays-read-new-york-city-activists-mobilize-right-counsel-eviction/" target="_blank">90 percent</a> of these tenants go through Housing Court without legal representation. In attempts to combat this, the New York City government has provided millions in funding to legal advocacy organizations to defend tenants in Housing Court and prevent evictions. As a result, New York saw an encouraging <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/01/nyregion/evictions-are-down-by-18-new-york-city-cites-increased-legal-services.html?_r=2" target="_blank">18% decrease</a> in the number of evictions in 2015 due to the increase in assistance of legal services. While this additional funding is making strides in helping combat high eviction rates, these efforts are not doing enough.</p> <p>In order to provide real assistance and protection to its low-income residents and tenants as well as reduce racial discrimination, New York City should call for an indefinite temporary moratorium on evictions.</p> <p>In September of 2015, I began work as a legal intern at the Safety Net Project at Urban Justice Center. For nine months straight, I spent hours at Bronx Housing Court with hundreds of tenants, conducting intakes for potential clients for the attorneys to represent in Housing Court. During this time, I realized that one way to address the housing and eviction crisis in New York City could be a temporary moratorium on evictions.</p> <p>In a city plagued with homelessness, a poverty crisis, and drastic <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/gentrification-doesn-poor-report-shows-article-1.2393396" target="_blank">rates of gentrification</a>, by instituting an eviction moratorium city government would not only be assisting its low-income residents, but also relieving its overburdened court system and the organizations trying to help tenants.</p> <p>A moratorium on evictions, while it sounds extreme and improbable, would actually be quite feasible and beneficial.</p> <p>Landlords, while not being able to evict tenants, would still be able to collect money settlements. This could take place in Small-Claims, Civil, or even the Supreme Court. During this indeterminate period, New York would be able to reevaluate its current housing crisis and come up with better multi-faceted solutions while thousands would not be threatened with homelessness.</p> <p>The city, not burdened with the cost of both evictions and rising shelter expenses, could shift its focus and funding to other programs such as new or increased housing subsidies. Because of the inadequate number of affordable apartments, new and additional subsidies would allow access to a wider population of New Yorkers, thus diminishing the homeless population. This would result in <a href="http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/todays-read-paying-keep-people-homes-can-save-cities-money/" target="_blank">annual savings at shelters</a> throughout the city as well.</p> <p>Housing Court and evictions demonstrate not only injustice against low-income tenants, but also racial discrimination. If you walk into Housing Court in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, or Staten Island, you see clearly that the majority of tenants are people of color. Approximately seven of every ten clients I spoke to at Housing Court were African-American women. This opens up an even wider conversation about discrimination based on race and gender where <a href="http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2014/06/study_eviction_rates_for_black_women_on_par_with_incarcerations_for_black.html" target="_blank">black men are locked up and black women are locked out</a>. An eviction moratorium would potentially limit these racially discriminatory practices.</p> <p>Various types of moratoriums have actually taken place all across the country and yielded positive results.</p> <p>In <a href="http://www.sltrib.com/home/3063885-155/salt-lake-city-council-ready-to" target="_blank">Salt Lake City</a>, a one-year impact fee moratorium was imposed to help reassess the dysfunctional collection fee system. Recently, <a href="http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2016/04/06/oakland-approves-90-day-moratorium-on-rent-hikes-evictions/" target="_blank">Oakland, California</a> approved a 90-day freeze on rent hikes and an eviction moratorium to help the city deal with its ever-growing housing crisis. <a href="http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2014/12/22/cook-lake-counties-put-evictions-on-hold-until-jan-5/" target="_blank">Chicago</a> instituted an official annual moratorium on evictions from December 18 through January 5 to give tenants a holiday reprieve. This moratorium is also in effect when temperatures reach 15 degrees or colder or when severe weather conditions would make it dangerous to evict tenants. Moratoriums like these give cities time - opportunity to assess, reevaluate, and change any facet of policy that negatively affects tenants, recognizing that housing is a basic right and essential to pursuing other aspects of life. New York should be able to institute something similar.</p> <p>Currently, the only existing eviction moratorium in place is the annual and <a href="http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Tenants-Get-Holiday-Eviction-Reprieve.html" target="_blank">informal practice conducted by marshals</a>, who typically cease all evictions during the Christmas holiday into the new year. However, while this practice is neither sanctioned nor uniformly widespread, it does not address the larger issue of the vast number of low-income New Yorkers who are displaced from their housing each year. Another eviction moratorium, an official one, took place in 2012 after <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/nycha/about/press/pr-2012/nycha-extends-eviction-moratorium.page" target="_blank">Hurricane Sandy</a>. While no formal statistics could be found to show the benefits of these moratoriums, both led to more tenants in housing and reduced costs to the city for expenses like shelters.</p> <p>In the fast-paced City of New York, tenants have seen rapid gentrification, judges pushing for settlements instead of fair decisions, and landlords seeking quick evictions. A moratorium on evictions would effectively slow down this process, keep people in their homes, provide more subsidies to put more people into new homes who currently do not qualify, and save the city money.</p> <p>Lastly, New York stands as a beacon of change on many issues. Evictions are a national epidemic. A New York eviction moratorium would act as an example for the rest of the country, thus leading to fewer homeless Americans across the country. It should not take the Christmas spirit or a devastating hurricane to call the city to act in defense of its most vulnerable residents. A housing disaster is already taking place.</p> <p>***<br />Tyler Tagliaferro is a double major in Political Science and American Studies at Fordham University.</p> <p>

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/14769319811_04f439bf02_o.jpg" alt="housing" height="398" width="600" /></p> <p>photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/eblake/14769319811/in/photolist-ov7Ce2-7xLAJT-7xQr6J-otmVTQ-8LbhRF-7xQrxW-ng5MpF-7xQqwU-7xLBcP-odV6wp-8Lbin8-7FnSry-61mdcx-61qnWm-5YxWkS-5YxZNJ-61qisy-617SDm-5YtJAc-5YtHiz-cjPPgE-a8m9Ez-5YtLz8-2aAreK-617Pxq-61puS4-647qxz-5Yy17Y-66cjzW-5ZQ8mw-5YtHTZ-8fNNTk-5ZKU1n-5ZF5iE-5YtHL6-613CmH-5Yy229-8Q2MRm-7xLB4F-5YpHua-8yahHf-wDMQrT-5XjwNP-dUF7Ah-8n7DaW-nYVh2x-8n7CJ5-czyewN-nEEiSZ-8LbhWV/" target="_blank">Edward Blake via Flickr</a></p> <hr /> <p>One fear that is prevalent in every borough of New York City is the threat of eviction. Gentrification and the ever increasing housing affordability gap makes staying in an apartment harder and harder each year for thousands of tenants. Evictions are handed down in Housing Court, where the odds do not favor low-income tenants.</p> <p>As of 2015, an estimated <a href="http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/todays-read-new-york-city-activists-mobilize-right-counsel-eviction/" target="_blank">90 percent</a> of these tenants go through Housing Court without legal representation. In attempts to combat this, the New York City government has provided millions in funding to legal advocacy organizations to defend tenants in Housing Court and prevent evictions. As a result, New York saw an encouraging <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/01/nyregion/evictions-are-down-by-18-new-york-city-cites-increased-legal-services.html?_r=2" target="_blank">18% decrease</a> in the number of evictions in 2015 due to the increase in assistance of legal services. While this additional funding is making strides in helping combat high eviction rates, these efforts are not doing enough.</p> <p>In order to provide real assistance and protection to its low-income residents and tenants as well as reduce racial discrimination, New York City should call for an indefinite temporary moratorium on evictions.</p> <p>In September of 2015, I began work as a legal intern at the Safety Net Project at Urban Justice Center. For nine months straight, I spent hours at Bronx Housing Court with hundreds of tenants, conducting intakes for potential clients for the attorneys to represent in Housing Court. During this time, I realized that one way to address the housing and eviction crisis in New York City could be a temporary moratorium on evictions.</p> <p>In a city plagued with homelessness, a poverty crisis, and drastic <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/gentrification-doesn-poor-report-shows-article-1.2393396" target="_blank">rates of gentrification</a>, by instituting an eviction moratorium city government would not only be assisting its low-income residents, but also relieving its overburdened court system and the organizations trying to help tenants.</p> <p>A moratorium on evictions, while it sounds extreme and improbable, would actually be quite feasible and beneficial.</p> <p>Landlords, while not being able to evict tenants, would still be able to collect money settlements. This could take place in Small-Claims, Civil, or even the Supreme Court. During this indeterminate period, New York would be able to reevaluate its current housing crisis and come up with better multi-faceted solutions while thousands would not be threatened with homelessness.</p> <p>The city, not burdened with the cost of both evictions and rising shelter expenses, could shift its focus and funding to other programs such as new or increased housing subsidies. Because of the inadequate number of affordable apartments, new and additional subsidies would allow access to a wider population of New Yorkers, thus diminishing the homeless population. This would result in <a href="http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/todays-read-paying-keep-people-homes-can-save-cities-money/" target="_blank">annual savings at shelters</a> throughout the city as well.</p> <p>Housing Court and evictions demonstrate not only injustice against low-income tenants, but also racial discrimination. If you walk into Housing Court in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, or Staten Island, you see clearly that the majority of tenants are people of color. Approximately seven of every ten clients I spoke to at Housing Court were African-American women. This opens up an even wider conversation about discrimination based on race and gender where <a href="http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2014/06/study_eviction_rates_for_black_women_on_par_with_incarcerations_for_black.html" target="_blank">black men are locked up and black women are locked out</a>. An eviction moratorium would potentially limit these racially discriminatory practices.</p> <p>Various types of moratoriums have actually taken place all across the country and yielded positive results.</p> <p>In <a href="http://www.sltrib.com/home/3063885-155/salt-lake-city-council-ready-to" target="_blank">Salt Lake City</a>, a one-year impact fee moratorium was imposed to help reassess the dysfunctional collection fee system. Recently, <a href="http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2016/04/06/oakland-approves-90-day-moratorium-on-rent-hikes-evictions/" target="_blank">Oakland, California</a> approved a 90-day freeze on rent hikes and an eviction moratorium to help the city deal with its ever-growing housing crisis. <a href="http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2014/12/22/cook-lake-counties-put-evictions-on-hold-until-jan-5/" target="_blank">Chicago</a> instituted an official annual moratorium on evictions from December 18 through January 5 to give tenants a holiday reprieve. This moratorium is also in effect when temperatures reach 15 degrees or colder or when severe weather conditions would make it dangerous to evict tenants. Moratoriums like these give cities time - opportunity to assess, reevaluate, and change any facet of policy that negatively affects tenants, recognizing that housing is a basic right and essential to pursuing other aspects of life. New York should be able to institute something similar.</p> <p>Currently, the only existing eviction moratorium in place is the annual and <a href="http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Tenants-Get-Holiday-Eviction-Reprieve.html" target="_blank">informal practice conducted by marshals</a>, who typically cease all evictions during the Christmas holiday into the new year. However, while this practice is neither sanctioned nor uniformly widespread, it does not address the larger issue of the vast number of low-income New Yorkers who are displaced from their housing each year. Another eviction moratorium, an official one, took place in 2012 after <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/nycha/about/press/pr-2012/nycha-extends-eviction-moratorium.page" target="_blank">Hurricane Sandy</a>. While no formal statistics could be found to show the benefits of these moratoriums, both led to more tenants in housing and reduced costs to the city for expenses like shelters.</p> <p>In the fast-paced City of New York, tenants have seen rapid gentrification, judges pushing for settlements instead of fair decisions, and landlords seeking quick evictions. A moratorium on evictions would effectively slow down this process, keep people in their homes, provide more subsidies to put more people into new homes who currently do not qualify, and save the city money.</p> <p>Lastly, New York stands as a beacon of change on many issues. Evictions are a national epidemic. A New York eviction moratorium would act as an example for the rest of the country, thus leading to fewer homeless Americans across the country. It should not take the Christmas spirit or a devastating hurricane to call the city to act in defense of its most vulnerable residents. A housing disaster is already taking place.</p> <p>***<br />Tyler Tagliaferro is a double major in Political Science and American Studies at Fordham University.</p> <p>

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
Wright Runs for Congress as Tenants Champion, to Mixed Reviews 2016-05-15T04:00:00+00:00 2016-05-15T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6335:wright-runs-for-congress-as-tenants-champion-to-mixed-reviews Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/wright_rangel.jpg" width="600" height="450" alt="wright rangel" /></p> <p>Keith Wright, Charles Rangel, and others (photo via Wright's campaign)</p> <hr /> <p>New York Assemblymember Keith Wright’s congressional campaign has flooded inboxes declaring him a “champion” for tenants. Many see it as an appropriate description for the housing committee chair - his campaign touts the support of “100 tenant leaders” and he has a long history of advocating for renters, starting in the 1980s as the head of the tenant association in Harlem’s Riverton Houses, where he still lives. Wright and his fellow tenants recently settled a lawsuit with their landlord for $2 million after alleging they were charged improper rent and other misdeeds.</p> <p>One of several campaign emails to supporters seeking donations based on Wright’s tenant advocacy reads: “Keith has been a voice for our neighborhoods for decades. His leadership has made sure that NYC protects and expands affordable housing. He pushes to stand up for tenants and hold NYCHA management accountable.”</p> <p>Wright is a leader in the crowded Democratic primary to replace retiring Rep. Charles Rangel, who has endorsed him, and he’s very much running on his housing record.</p> <p>There is another view of Wright held by some tenant advocates and legislators, though, who&nbsp;see him as being an outspoken advocate on housing issues who has failed to turn his bully pulpit and considerable power and influence in Albany into actual results.</p> <p>These critics maintain that Wright failed to buck former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Governor Andrew Cuomo and fight for drastic changes to the rent laws that would do away with what they see as incentives for landlords to increase rent and drive out rent-controlled tenants.</p> <p>In the 13th Congressional District largely made up of Harlem and Washington Heights, Wright is facing state Senator Adriano Espaillat; Clyde Williams, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton; Assemblymember Guillermo Linares; and former Assemblymember Adam Clayton Powell. Appearing the favored establishment candidate, Wright - along with Espaillat and Linares - has faced criticism from Williams and others for connections to Albany and its notorious corruption and dysfunction.</p> <p>Several tenant groups were excited when Wright took over the housing committee from disgraced Assemblymember Vito Lopez in 2013, but a number of them were quickly disillusioned, representatives say. They believe Wright has simply maintained the status quo and amassed power in anticipation for his run for Congress. They point to Wright’s fundraising records that show he’s taken significant donations from real estate interests and question his loyalty to tenant issues such as doing away with the process by which landlords can deregulate affordable units or ending the 421-a subsidy they call a giveaway to developers.</p> <p>“The problem with Keith is that he says all the right things but then follows orders, resulting in the ongoing destruction of our rent-regulated housing. And I am disturbed by the staggering amount of real estate money he has amassed for his congressional race,” said Michael McKee of Tenants PAC, which organizes around affordable housing issues and backs like-minded candidates. Tenants PAC does not endorse in national races.</p> <p>A 2014 study by the Community Service Society, an advocacy group for low-income New Yorkers, <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303393804579310832380848024" target="_blank">found</a> that the city lost 40 percent of apartments for low-income residents over the prior decade.</p> <p>Wright defended his record in an interview: “As chair of the housing committee we’ve had to work against a very conservative state Senate,” Wright said, referring to the Republican-controlled upper house of the New York Legislature. “Listen, no matter what you do you are not going to be able to please everyone. Sure you get folks who want me to hold up the budget and this that, but I’ve been through those days before and it didn't quite work. If I thought it would work I would do it again. You can’t please everyone.”</p> <p>As for his major wins, Wright counts his “greatest achievement” as a 2014 lawsuit he filed with his fellow tenants at Riverton Square accusing the landlords of illegally inflating rent, improperly evicting tenants, and overstating the value of the improvements made to apartments. In February the landlord, CWCapital and CompassRock, agreed to a $2 million settlement that will be paid in rent credits (they admitted no wrongdoing).</p> <p>Wright was also a key player in negotiations of the recent sale of Riverton to A&amp;E Real Estate. Part of the sale included an agreement that A&amp;E would repair homes and include 975 apartments, including Wright’s, in a 30-year affordability agreement.</p> <p>Two of Wright’s major wins didn’t come legislatively, but instead in actions he took to protect his own housing complex.</p> <p>Wright rejected the idea that contributions from real estate influenced his fight for stronger rent laws. “Ask him why he’s taken so much Wall Street money and D.C. money,” Wright said, apparently referencing his opponent Clyde Williams, who brought up donations Wright has taken from real estate interests in recent debates. “We’ve all taken real estate money. It has nothing to do with my commitment to the tenants of New York City. I think my record is plain on its face.”</p> <p>Filings with the State Board of Elections and Federal Elections Commission dating back to 2013 show that Wright has taken tens of thousands of dollars in donations from major real estate and construction interests and their subsidiaries. Real estate groups are known for donating to many state politicians in hopes of influencing policy.</p> <p>Major donations to Wright from real estate interests include $2,050 from the Real Estate Board PAC; $4,100 from JSignal LLC, which is connected to Cayuga Capital, a real estate management and development firm; $500 from John Banks, president of the Real Estate Board of NY; $2,700 from Eliot Spitzer, the former governor who now focuses on real estate; $5,000 from Empire PAC, which represents real estate interests; $2,500 from REBNY member Daniel Zucker; and a total of $4,200 over three contributions from Donald Capoccia, head of BFC Partners, a development firm that specializes in affordable housing.</p> <p>Wright’s first action as housing chair in 2013 was to introduce a package of housing bills that included a surprise: renewal of the lapsed J-51 program. The program is intended to provide tax breaks to landlords who make improvements to affordable housing, but tenant groups asserted it was abused by landlords. A study found half of the tax breaks went to owners of market-rate buildings.</p> <p>“I was named housing chair on a Friday and we had a very large bill that was somewhat controversial that had to be done on Monday," Wright told Gotham Gazette during an interview in February 2013. "I know folks in the tenant movement were upset, they wanted that bill to be used as leverage, but it was a bill for coops, condos, and lofts, and those type of people do live in New York City. We had to do this bill.”</p> <p>Last year, as rent regulations that govern affordable housing in the city and across the state came up for renewal, tenant groups were hoping Wright and newly sworn-in Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, would be able to win significant changes to the rent laws to do away with what they call incentives for landlords to take apartments off of the affordable housing rolls. Instead they say they got tweaks.</p> <p>The threshold for rent at which a vacant apartment can be deregulated was increased from $2,500 to $2,700. The deal also required landlords stretch out the period they increase tenants’ rent after making major capital improvements. Landlords were also limited in how much they can increase rent between tenants. The wins were seen as small, minimal in comparison to what Cuomo and the Assembly publicly pushed for. Wright said he was nevertheless proud of the changes that were made.</p> <p>Last year was a not a typical year - both legislative leaders Dean Skelos and Sheldon Silver were indicted during budget season (and later convicted). Rather than a traditional negotiation of the expiring rent laws and 421-a program that gives tax breaks to developers for including affordable housing in their projects, Cuomo allowed real estate and labor interests to negotiate 421-a renewal on their own, outside the Legislature.</p> <p>Tenant groups say 421-a is a “tax suck” that has been demonstrated to produce very few affordable units and been the subject to major abuse and fraud by developers. Investigations, like one <a href="https://www.propublica.org/article/nyc-landlords-flout-rent-limits-but-still-rake-in-lucrative-tax-breaks" target="_blank">by ProPublica</a>, have proven those claims to be true. Still, Mayor Bill de Blasio and others want to see a new, strengthened 421-a program enacted.</p> <p>Cuomo attributed giving real estate and labor control of negotiations to the sensitivity of legislators towards the Silver and Skelos scandals that included revelations about the political influence of Glenwood Management, a real estate company that was the state’s largest campaign donor.</p> <p>Labor and real estate failed to reach an agreement on renewing 421-a, so the program lapsed. Still, Cuomo and other stakeholders <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6267-major-city-issues-at-play-in-politically-charged-post-budget-legislative-session" target="_blank">appear loathe to let it go</a>, to the dismay of some tenant groups.</p> <p>Results of the legislative negotiations on rent laws last year were hailed as “historic” by Cuomo, but tenant groups found it lacking. They say it basically cemented the status quo allowing landlords to steadily raise rents and move apartments off the affordable housing rolls.</p> <p>"We pretty much got nothing," said Delsenia Glover, director of Alliance for Tenant Power, said at a press conference in Albany in early April. "At the time Governor Cuomo said they were the 'strongest rent laws in history.' It's not true, we got nothing."</p> <p>Glover, who is from Harlem, does not blame Wright for the rent law negotiations. “Keith is extremely supportive,” Glover told Gotham Gazette in a recent interview. “He was one of our lead champions last year along with Speaker Heastie. He worked as hard as he could on the rent laws.”</p> <p>The focus of Alliance for Tenant Power’s April press conference was demanding that if Albany does decide to find a replacement for 421-a that they must also reopen negotiations on rent laws. Glover says lawmakers should end current rules that incentivize landlords to make apartments unaffordable.</p> <p>“Instead of discussing benefits for rich developers, all attention should be on fixing the major loopholes in the rent regulation system that houses 2.5 million tenants in approximately 1 million units with no cost whatsoever to the taxpayer,” Glover wrote in an April op-ed at Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>Glover and other tenant groups deride the idea of any replacement for 421-a. Wright attended the press conference and appeared to agree, despite the fact he introduced what many tenant advocates saw as a direct replacement. Wright proposed a program that would provide $100,000 to developers per affordable unit they build that would be funded by the state abandoned property fund.</p> <p>Wright said at the time that the bill was negotiated with the Real Estate Board of New York the NYS Association for Affordable Housing, and the Building &amp; Construction Trades Council. All three groups indicated <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/wright-proposes-replacement-expired-421-a-tax-break-article-1.2567341" target="_blank">to the Daily News</a> at the time that they didn’t actually support the plan.</p> <p>“I’m sorry the press picked it up as a replacement for 421-a,” Wright told Gotham Gazette, implying that his plan was not aimed to be such and that a lack of enthusiasm for it was the result of that mistaken characterization.</p> <p>Asked for her take on Wright’s plan, Glover demurred, saying, “You’d have to ask someone who was in the room.”</p> <p>Barika Williams, deputy director of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD), praised Wright for bringing together disparate groups to discuss the creation of “a tool” to spur the creation of affordable housing. “It was a unique table that brought together different parts of the for-profit and nonprofit set. You saw a lot of people who don’t normally sit at the same table. We were looking at achieving the deepest affordability and trying to target resources to those buckets of the population that are desperately in need.”</p> <p>Williams said that in the end all of the groups may not have been on the same page because not all the groups involved were present for the entire process. “It was a long process that took commitment and being consistently involved for over two months.”</p> <p>Wright has been criticized by advocates and fellow legislators for not being properly versed in the bills he supports. He’s also been criticized for being too close to Governor Cuomo.</p> <p>Wright said he would love to see the rent laws reopened for negotiation this year.</p> <p>City &amp; State NY <a href="http://cityandstateny.com/articles/politics/new-york-city/tenant-rights-group-criticizes-wright%E2%80%99s-illegal-hotel-legislation.html#.VypnlIQrLGI" target="_blank">recently reported</a> that Tom Cayler, chair of the West Side Neighborhood Alliance’s Illegal Hotel Committee, was unhappy with a bill Wright carries that is technically designed to deal with illegal hotels.</p> <p>Wright’s bill would create a process by which permanent residents of certain apartment buildings could register to rent their apartments in the short term - similar to how Airbnb functions.</p> <p>Cayler said the bill would simply allow residents to rent their apartments as “illegal hotels,” rather than ending the practice. There is a good deal of pushback against Airbnb <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20151208/greenpoint/heres-how-landlords-are-striking-back-against-airbnb" target="_blank">in Manhattan</a>. The group met with Wright and were asked to send him a memo with their concerns. They say they never heard back.</p> <p>“It was really shocking to us that he didn’t actually seem to know much about the bill he had his name on,” Cayler told City &amp; State. “He was not well-informed about it. His chief of staff was the one who knew about this particular bill.”</p> <p>Wright’s spokesperson Emma Forbes told City &amp; State that the bill was designed to increase transparency and that the bill had yet to move because there wasn’t “consensus” from residents and stakeholders.</p> <p>Asked about Cayler’s criticism Wright told Gotham Gazette: “I thought he was somewhat misinformed.”</p> <p>Wright said his door is always open and he is willing to discuss legislation.</p> <p>WIlliams, of ANHD, countered the idea that Wright was ill informed about legislation. “I think from our experience Assemblymember Wright understands the complexity of housing and the complex mix of interests that are involved. With all of that in mind, his goal always seems to be thinking about deep affordability and how to help those folks in New York City who are struggling and who are the most underserved.”</p> <p>Asked if he expects legislation on illegal hotels to move this session, which ends in mid-June, Wright replied, “The bill is in my name in a committee I head and I control the bill and it hasn’t moved.” “So if it quacks like a duck...,” he added, implying there was little chance the bill would advance.</p> <p>Wright said he is proud of his record as a tenant advocate and that despite the overwhelming support he has received from the Democratic establishment, including words of support from former President Bill Clinton and formal endorsements from Gov. Cuomo, Speaker Heastie, and Rep. Rangel, he does not take it for granted that he will be leaving Albany for Washington. “We have a lot to do here,” Wright said, adding that should he be elected to Congress his main focus will be on changing the definition of area median income because of the way it impacts affordable housing in the city.</p> <p>“The reason I’m running is to change the definition of area median income and the way it is put forward with affordable housing,” said Wright. “The housing that is being built is called “affordable,” but it's not affordable to anyone I know or even me.” (Wright, who lives in rent-stabilized housing, has an Assembly salary of $79,500, not including the stipend he receives for heading the housing committee, and he has served for 24 years.)</p> <p>Citing the fact that the AMI used for New York City to determine rent thresholds takes into account Westchester and Rockland counties, greatly increasing the number, Wright said that reform would benefit city residents.</p> <p>“Changing the definition is what I want to do the first day I get to Congress, most definitely,” said Wright.</p> <p>New Yorkers are tired of seeing condos going for millions of dollars while they worry about paying the bills and staying in their neighborhood, Wright said.</p> <p>“The people of Harlem shed blood, sweat, and tears to make their neighborhood a safe place to live,” Wright said. “People are scared to death their children won't be able to afford to live in the neighborhood because it won’t be affordable.”</p> <p>

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by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/wright_rangel.jpg" width="600" height="450" alt="wright rangel" /></p> <p>Keith Wright, Charles Rangel, and others (photo via Wright's campaign)</p> <hr /> <p>New York Assemblymember Keith Wright’s congressional campaign has flooded inboxes declaring him a “champion” for tenants. Many see it as an appropriate description for the housing committee chair - his campaign touts the support of “100 tenant leaders” and he has a long history of advocating for renters, starting in the 1980s as the head of the tenant association in Harlem’s Riverton Houses, where he still lives. Wright and his fellow tenants recently settled a lawsuit with their landlord for $2 million after alleging they were charged improper rent and other misdeeds.</p> <p>One of several campaign emails to supporters seeking donations based on Wright’s tenant advocacy reads: “Keith has been a voice for our neighborhoods for decades. His leadership has made sure that NYC protects and expands affordable housing. He pushes to stand up for tenants and hold NYCHA management accountable.”</p> <p>Wright is a leader in the crowded Democratic primary to replace retiring Rep. Charles Rangel, who has endorsed him, and he’s very much running on his housing record.</p> <p>There is another view of Wright held by some tenant advocates and legislators, though, who&nbsp;see him as being an outspoken advocate on housing issues who has failed to turn his bully pulpit and considerable power and influence in Albany into actual results.</p> <p>These critics maintain that Wright failed to buck former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Governor Andrew Cuomo and fight for drastic changes to the rent laws that would do away with what they see as incentives for landlords to increase rent and drive out rent-controlled tenants.</p> <p>In the 13th Congressional District largely made up of Harlem and Washington Heights, Wright is facing state Senator Adriano Espaillat; Clyde Williams, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton; Assemblymember Guillermo Linares; and former Assemblymember Adam Clayton Powell. Appearing the favored establishment candidate, Wright - along with Espaillat and Linares - has faced criticism from Williams and others for connections to Albany and its notorious corruption and dysfunction.</p> <p>Several tenant groups were excited when Wright took over the housing committee from disgraced Assemblymember Vito Lopez in 2013, but a number of them were quickly disillusioned, representatives say. They believe Wright has simply maintained the status quo and amassed power in anticipation for his run for Congress. They point to Wright’s fundraising records that show he’s taken significant donations from real estate interests and question his loyalty to tenant issues such as doing away with the process by which landlords can deregulate affordable units or ending the 421-a subsidy they call a giveaway to developers.</p> <p>“The problem with Keith is that he says all the right things but then follows orders, resulting in the ongoing destruction of our rent-regulated housing. And I am disturbed by the staggering amount of real estate money he has amassed for his congressional race,” said Michael McKee of Tenants PAC, which organizes around affordable housing issues and backs like-minded candidates. Tenants PAC does not endorse in national races.</p> <p>A 2014 study by the Community Service Society, an advocacy group for low-income New Yorkers, <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303393804579310832380848024" target="_blank">found</a> that the city lost 40 percent of apartments for low-income residents over the prior decade.</p> <p>Wright defended his record in an interview: “As chair of the housing committee we’ve had to work against a very conservative state Senate,” Wright said, referring to the Republican-controlled upper house of the New York Legislature. “Listen, no matter what you do you are not going to be able to please everyone. Sure you get folks who want me to hold up the budget and this that, but I’ve been through those days before and it didn't quite work. If I thought it would work I would do it again. You can’t please everyone.”</p> <p>As for his major wins, Wright counts his “greatest achievement” as a 2014 lawsuit he filed with his fellow tenants at Riverton Square accusing the landlords of illegally inflating rent, improperly evicting tenants, and overstating the value of the improvements made to apartments. In February the landlord, CWCapital and CompassRock, agreed to a $2 million settlement that will be paid in rent credits (they admitted no wrongdoing).</p> <p>Wright was also a key player in negotiations of the recent sale of Riverton to A&amp;E Real Estate. Part of the sale included an agreement that A&amp;E would repair homes and include 975 apartments, including Wright’s, in a 30-year affordability agreement.</p> <p>Two of Wright’s major wins didn’t come legislatively, but instead in actions he took to protect his own housing complex.</p> <p>Wright rejected the idea that contributions from real estate influenced his fight for stronger rent laws. “Ask him why he’s taken so much Wall Street money and D.C. money,” Wright said, apparently referencing his opponent Clyde Williams, who brought up donations Wright has taken from real estate interests in recent debates. “We’ve all taken real estate money. It has nothing to do with my commitment to the tenants of New York City. I think my record is plain on its face.”</p> <p>Filings with the State Board of Elections and Federal Elections Commission dating back to 2013 show that Wright has taken tens of thousands of dollars in donations from major real estate and construction interests and their subsidiaries. Real estate groups are known for donating to many state politicians in hopes of influencing policy.</p> <p>Major donations to Wright from real estate interests include $2,050 from the Real Estate Board PAC; $4,100 from JSignal LLC, which is connected to Cayuga Capital, a real estate management and development firm; $500 from John Banks, president of the Real Estate Board of NY; $2,700 from Eliot Spitzer, the former governor who now focuses on real estate; $5,000 from Empire PAC, which represents real estate interests; $2,500 from REBNY member Daniel Zucker; and a total of $4,200 over three contributions from Donald Capoccia, head of BFC Partners, a development firm that specializes in affordable housing.</p> <p>Wright’s first action as housing chair in 2013 was to introduce a package of housing bills that included a surprise: renewal of the lapsed J-51 program. The program is intended to provide tax breaks to landlords who make improvements to affordable housing, but tenant groups asserted it was abused by landlords. A study found half of the tax breaks went to owners of market-rate buildings.</p> <p>“I was named housing chair on a Friday and we had a very large bill that was somewhat controversial that had to be done on Monday," Wright told Gotham Gazette during an interview in February 2013. "I know folks in the tenant movement were upset, they wanted that bill to be used as leverage, but it was a bill for coops, condos, and lofts, and those type of people do live in New York City. We had to do this bill.”</p> <p>Last year, as rent regulations that govern affordable housing in the city and across the state came up for renewal, tenant groups were hoping Wright and newly sworn-in Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, would be able to win significant changes to the rent laws to do away with what they call incentives for landlords to take apartments off of the affordable housing rolls. Instead they say they got tweaks.</p> <p>The threshold for rent at which a vacant apartment can be deregulated was increased from $2,500 to $2,700. The deal also required landlords stretch out the period they increase tenants’ rent after making major capital improvements. Landlords were also limited in how much they can increase rent between tenants. The wins were seen as small, minimal in comparison to what Cuomo and the Assembly publicly pushed for. Wright said he was nevertheless proud of the changes that were made.</p> <p>Last year was a not a typical year - both legislative leaders Dean Skelos and Sheldon Silver were indicted during budget season (and later convicted). Rather than a traditional negotiation of the expiring rent laws and 421-a program that gives tax breaks to developers for including affordable housing in their projects, Cuomo allowed real estate and labor interests to negotiate 421-a renewal on their own, outside the Legislature.</p> <p>Tenant groups say 421-a is a “tax suck” that has been demonstrated to produce very few affordable units and been the subject to major abuse and fraud by developers. Investigations, like one <a href="https://www.propublica.org/article/nyc-landlords-flout-rent-limits-but-still-rake-in-lucrative-tax-breaks" target="_blank">by ProPublica</a>, have proven those claims to be true. Still, Mayor Bill de Blasio and others want to see a new, strengthened 421-a program enacted.</p> <p>Cuomo attributed giving real estate and labor control of negotiations to the sensitivity of legislators towards the Silver and Skelos scandals that included revelations about the political influence of Glenwood Management, a real estate company that was the state’s largest campaign donor.</p> <p>Labor and real estate failed to reach an agreement on renewing 421-a, so the program lapsed. Still, Cuomo and other stakeholders <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6267-major-city-issues-at-play-in-politically-charged-post-budget-legislative-session" target="_blank">appear loathe to let it go</a>, to the dismay of some tenant groups.</p> <p>Results of the legislative negotiations on rent laws last year were hailed as “historic” by Cuomo, but tenant groups found it lacking. They say it basically cemented the status quo allowing landlords to steadily raise rents and move apartments off the affordable housing rolls.</p> <p>"We pretty much got nothing," said Delsenia Glover, director of Alliance for Tenant Power, said at a press conference in Albany in early April. "At the time Governor Cuomo said they were the 'strongest rent laws in history.' It's not true, we got nothing."</p> <p>Glover, who is from Harlem, does not blame Wright for the rent law negotiations. “Keith is extremely supportive,” Glover told Gotham Gazette in a recent interview. “He was one of our lead champions last year along with Speaker Heastie. He worked as hard as he could on the rent laws.”</p> <p>The focus of Alliance for Tenant Power’s April press conference was demanding that if Albany does decide to find a replacement for 421-a that they must also reopen negotiations on rent laws. Glover says lawmakers should end current rules that incentivize landlords to make apartments unaffordable.</p> <p>“Instead of discussing benefits for rich developers, all attention should be on fixing the major loopholes in the rent regulation system that houses 2.5 million tenants in approximately 1 million units with no cost whatsoever to the taxpayer,” Glover wrote in an April op-ed at Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>Glover and other tenant groups deride the idea of any replacement for 421-a. Wright attended the press conference and appeared to agree, despite the fact he introduced what many tenant advocates saw as a direct replacement. Wright proposed a program that would provide $100,000 to developers per affordable unit they build that would be funded by the state abandoned property fund.</p> <p>Wright said at the time that the bill was negotiated with the Real Estate Board of New York the NYS Association for Affordable Housing, and the Building &amp; Construction Trades Council. All three groups indicated <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/wright-proposes-replacement-expired-421-a-tax-break-article-1.2567341" target="_blank">to the Daily News</a> at the time that they didn’t actually support the plan.</p> <p>“I’m sorry the press picked it up as a replacement for 421-a,” Wright told Gotham Gazette, implying that his plan was not aimed to be such and that a lack of enthusiasm for it was the result of that mistaken characterization.</p> <p>Asked for her take on Wright’s plan, Glover demurred, saying, “You’d have to ask someone who was in the room.”</p> <p>Barika Williams, deputy director of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD), praised Wright for bringing together disparate groups to discuss the creation of “a tool” to spur the creation of affordable housing. “It was a unique table that brought together different parts of the for-profit and nonprofit set. You saw a lot of people who don’t normally sit at the same table. We were looking at achieving the deepest affordability and trying to target resources to those buckets of the population that are desperately in need.”</p> <p>Williams said that in the end all of the groups may not have been on the same page because not all the groups involved were present for the entire process. “It was a long process that took commitment and being consistently involved for over two months.”</p> <p>Wright has been criticized by advocates and fellow legislators for not being properly versed in the bills he supports. He’s also been criticized for being too close to Governor Cuomo.</p> <p>Wright said he would love to see the rent laws reopened for negotiation this year.</p> <p>City &amp; State NY <a href="http://cityandstateny.com/articles/politics/new-york-city/tenant-rights-group-criticizes-wright%E2%80%99s-illegal-hotel-legislation.html#.VypnlIQrLGI" target="_blank">recently reported</a> that Tom Cayler, chair of the West Side Neighborhood Alliance’s Illegal Hotel Committee, was unhappy with a bill Wright carries that is technically designed to deal with illegal hotels.</p> <p>Wright’s bill would create a process by which permanent residents of certain apartment buildings could register to rent their apartments in the short term - similar to how Airbnb functions.</p> <p>Cayler said the bill would simply allow residents to rent their apartments as “illegal hotels,” rather than ending the practice. There is a good deal of pushback against Airbnb <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20151208/greenpoint/heres-how-landlords-are-striking-back-against-airbnb" target="_blank">in Manhattan</a>. The group met with Wright and were asked to send him a memo with their concerns. They say they never heard back.</p> <p>“It was really shocking to us that he didn’t actually seem to know much about the bill he had his name on,” Cayler told City &amp; State. “He was not well-informed about it. His chief of staff was the one who knew about this particular bill.”</p> <p>Wright’s spokesperson Emma Forbes told City &amp; State that the bill was designed to increase transparency and that the bill had yet to move because there wasn’t “consensus” from residents and stakeholders.</p> <p>Asked about Cayler’s criticism Wright told Gotham Gazette: “I thought he was somewhat misinformed.”</p> <p>Wright said his door is always open and he is willing to discuss legislation.</p> <p>WIlliams, of ANHD, countered the idea that Wright was ill informed about legislation. “I think from our experience Assemblymember Wright understands the complexity of housing and the complex mix of interests that are involved. With all of that in mind, his goal always seems to be thinking about deep affordability and how to help those folks in New York City who are struggling and who are the most underserved.”</p> <p>Asked if he expects legislation on illegal hotels to move this session, which ends in mid-June, Wright replied, “The bill is in my name in a committee I head and I control the bill and it hasn’t moved.” “So if it quacks like a duck...,” he added, implying there was little chance the bill would advance.</p> <p>Wright said he is proud of his record as a tenant advocate and that despite the overwhelming support he has received from the Democratic establishment, including words of support from former President Bill Clinton and formal endorsements from Gov. Cuomo, Speaker Heastie, and Rep. Rangel, he does not take it for granted that he will be leaving Albany for Washington. “We have a lot to do here,” Wright said, adding that should he be elected to Congress his main focus will be on changing the definition of area median income because of the way it impacts affordable housing in the city.</p> <p>“The reason I’m running is to change the definition of area median income and the way it is put forward with affordable housing,” said Wright. “The housing that is being built is called “affordable,” but it's not affordable to anyone I know or even me.” (Wright, who lives in rent-stabilized housing, has an Assembly salary of $79,500, not including the stipend he receives for heading the housing committee, and he has served for 24 years.)</p> <p>Citing the fact that the AMI used for New York City to determine rent thresholds takes into account Westchester and Rockland counties, greatly increasing the number, Wright said that reform would benefit city residents.</p> <p>“Changing the definition is what I want to do the first day I get to Congress, most definitely,” said Wright.</p> <p>New Yorkers are tired of seeing condos going for millions of dollars while they worry about paying the bills and staying in their neighborhood, Wright said.</p> <p>“The people of Harlem shed blood, sweat, and tears to make their neighborhood a safe place to live,” Wright said. “People are scared to death their children won't be able to afford to live in the neighborhood because it won’t be affordable.”</p> <p>

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by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Homeowners Stand to Gain in Areas to be Rezoned, If They Can Keep Their Homes 2016-04-28T04:00:00+00:00 2016-04-28T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6309:homeowners-stand-to-gain-in-areas-to-be-rezoned-if-they-can-keep-their-homes Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/14298580034_c75bdb858d_z.jpg" width="600" height="399" alt="de blasio homeowners sign sandy" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio (photo: Rob Bennett, Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">As plans to spur new development in areas around New York City proceed, mostly silence surrounds the experience of homeowners who are being pressured by investors to sell. Prior to the City Council’s approval of rezoning East New York, Brooklyn last week, there had been little public discussion of how or whether to ameliorate real estate speculation on small homes. At least in East New York, some homeowner protections have been introduced to the plan, but investor-backed speculation, to some extent, still seems to be part of the city-wide housing agenda.</p> <p dir="ltr">Facing a shortage of housing attainable for moderate- and low-income residents, Mayor Bill de Blasio has stressed the importance of creating a comprehensive affordable housing plan, part of his larger agenda to combat inequality. De Blasio is attempting to harness the sweep of gentrification that continues to displace residents – both renters and small home owners - who are being priced and bought out, especially in the “next” neighborhoods where prices are rising rapidly.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We know right now that we can do a lot to stop evictions from rental apartments,” de Blasio said in a March <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/de-blasios-affordable-housing-fight-shifts-neighborhood-battles/" target="_blank">interview</a> with WNYC. “We don’t have as good a model to protect homeowners that might be the subject of speculation.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor is working with the City Council on much of his housing plan, including tenant protections, new affordable housing requirements, and the rezoning of as many as 15 neighborhoods across the city. East New York’s is the first such rezoning plan to be approved by a Council vote.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Council itself has been especially focused on protecting tenants from eviction. When asked, though, about protections for financially-strapped homeowners who will have trouble resisting aggressive speculation, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito also indicated, like the mayor, that the subject has not been thoroughly discussed. Acknowledging pressure on homeowners as a challenge in a “very hot” market, she said, “Those are things we can talk about as we think about initiatives and existing legal services and getting to more targeted populations.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In the revised East New York rezoning plan, the city has committed to establishing a “Homeowner Helpdesk,” which will be a community-based support service with financial and legal counselors offering advice to homeowners facing overbearing speculators who are drawn in by low prices and the potential for high price growth that comes with the ability to build higher. The city will also provide low-income homeowners with loans and small grants for critical repairs through the Home Improvement Program and Senior Citizen Assistance Program, among others.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), which subsidizes the construction of affordable housing, also says it will work with the Department of Environmental Protection to implement water rate relief programs, and is also looking into the possibility of establishing a “Cease and Desist Zone,” where homeowners would be protected from unwanted solicitation. Buying, however, is still a principal tenet of the agenda to have real estate developers build much of the city’s new affordable housing stock.</p> <p dir="ltr">Part of Mark-Viverito’s East Harlem district is also on the list to be rezoned, as well as neighborhoods including Flushing West, Long Island City, a Jerome Avenue corridor in the Bronx, and a Bay Street Corridor on Staten Island.</p> <p dir="ltr">The rise in sales prices and the interest investors are showing in one-to-four unit houses in areas eyed for rezoning indicate that homeowners may increasingly become the targets of forceful, even predatory, buyers.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mark-Viverito mentioned the calls she herself receives to sell her East Harlem home, while “keys for cash” flyers proliferate in the neighborhoods on the shifting lines of gentrification. Often, even more aggressive tactics are taken by those looking to invest early when a neighborhood appears to be considered for improvement.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Stakeholders and Stakes</strong><br />All homeowners stand to gain from increasing property values in neighborhoods slated for rezoning. Those with moderate incomes and unburdened by mortgages are in particularly good position, whether they decide to take the money and run or stay vested. But many, often most, of the homeowners in areas pending rezoning have relatively low incomes and face significant pressures like mortgage obligations and the cost of maintaining old housing. As investors see greater opportunity in neighborhoods the city plans to upzone, this latter group of homeowners becomes more vulnerable to buyout offers that don’t reflect the value of their assets.</p> <p dir="ltr">For small home owners, the ability of government intervention to prevent displacement and promote affordable housing options falls into a grey area. “Obviously, the first thing we would say to anybody is to encourage nobody to respond to anything unless they get some sort of guidance,” Mark-Viverito said in March of homeowners being approached to sell. “These are challenges that we face in a market that is very hot, you know, that is putting a lot of pressures.”</p> <p dir="ltr">While Mark-Viverito may offer a tip to fellow homeowners - some of whom speak limited English and many of whom are seniors - and the city provides some advice and loan services, homeowners appear to be largely on their own as the city encourages investment in underdeveloped communities. As part of the plan to rezone East New York, the city aims to subsidize the construction of new deeply affordable housing on private land, but in many cases, developers must first buy land from existing homeowners.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Gentrification, rezoning it all trickles and impacts,” said Darma Diaz, a homeowner in Cypress Hills, which is partially included in the East New York rezoning plan. “We definitely know that rents in New York City are high and apartments are hard to find, but it makes [living in the city] that much more challenging when you have the pressure of investors wanting and pursuing and making it really financially lucrative to sell your home.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Diaz has been living in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn since the late 1970s and has owned a home there since 2007. She is worried that small home owners have not received enough attention throughout the city-wide discussion of rezoning as part of the mayor’s affordable housing agenda. “We knew that building more units was necessary for our community, but I think what [the mayor and City Council] did not take into account was the impact that the speculators were gonna have on small home owners.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing plan, in part using legislative tools passed through the City Council in March, includes leveraging property value growth that will come with changing land use regulations to allow greater housing density, encourage construction, and require developers to build tens of thousands of new units of affordable housing. De Blasio’s overall plan is to build and preserve a total of 200,000 units of affordable housing over ten years with varying rent regulations affordable to low-, moderate-, and middle-income New Yorkers. Another 160,000 market-rate units are part of the plan.</p> <p dir="ltr">Benjamin Dulchin, executive director of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD), told Gotham Gazette that the areas pending rezoning are typically regions of the city with high concentrations of low-rise buildings. Now with low housing density, developers will soon be allowed to build higher in these neighborhoods, creating additional market-rate apartments along with mandated affordable units.</p> <p dir="ltr">The buildings that would need to be torn down to make room for the higher, denser housing necessary to achieve the mayor’s goal of 80,000 newly built affordable units are also often the kinds of buildings - one-to-four family houses - that are occupied by the owner.</p> <p dir="ltr">In East New York, a majority of all housing is in buildings with fewer than six units. According to the Coalition for Community Advancement, a group of neighborhood organizations independently monitoring the planning process and pushing for deeper affordability levels, roughly three-quarters of the buildings on sale in East New York are one-to-four family houses.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Department of City Planning’s <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/plans/east-new-york/east-new-york-plan.page" target="_blank">East New York Community Plan</a>, the revised version of which was passed just by the City Council, proposed to change land use rules to allow six- to 14-story buildings to be constructed, which could more than double the area’s population density. In the next two years, HPD plans to build 1,200 new affordable housing units in East New York and, by 2024, seeks to make affordable half of all new units developed in that community.</p> <p dir="ltr">Even before rezoning proposals are approved through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which is the public process involving many city actors that any major land use change must go through, the increase in property value that comes with rezoning has potential to make waves among buyers and investors - and thus, existing homeowners.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the steady sales price growth of New York City real estate over the past five years (20 if you allow for some dips) is cooling, annual price growth in East Brooklyn, which includes Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, Bushwick, Crown Heights, and East New York, increased to a high 20.5 percent in February, exceeding the Brooklyn-wide growth rate by about 300 percent, according to a <a href="http://streeteasy.com/blog/february-2016-market-report/" target="_blank">StreetEasy report</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Alan Lightfeldt, a data scientist at StreetEasy, said that it is impossible to tell what impact the new affordable housing legislation will have on home sales because of the complexity of factors that affect prices, such as the “endemic demand” for homes - the built-in demand that a large city with a population of aspiring homeowners, like New York, almost always has today.</p> <p dir="ltr">That demand is part of the general trend of gentrification, radiating outward as the population continues to grow, business centers expand, and the city becomes <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/27/nyregion/anxiety-aside-new-york-sees-drop-in-crime.html?_r=0" target="_blank">safer</a>. The latest hot neighborhoods are those where prices are still affordable to moderate- and middle-income residents, and that have public transportation infrastructure connecting them to the rest of the city.</p> <p dir="ltr">Paula Crespo, a senior planner at the Pratt Center for Community Development, who works with the Coalition for Community Advancement, provided Gotham Gazette with data that the sales prices of one-to-four family homes has increased by 13 percent in East New York since the rezoning was announced in 2014. Yet, they are still relatively low compared to the city- and borough-wide median sales prices.</p> <p dir="ltr">The combination of low prices and high price growth makes places like East New York incredibly appetizing to real estate speculators who seek to turn a profit. When speculation is rampant, homeowners - both current and prospective - feel the effects.</p> <p dir="ltr">From a market perspective, other considerations aside, “when an area sees widespread value change, especially through external factors like rezoning,” Lightfeldt said, “homeowners usually benefit.” Being able to choose when to sell gives homeowners, like investors, the ability to capitalize on the increase in their property’s value.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Hardships of the Small Home Owner</strong><br />For homeowners who are in debt and facing financial hardship, however, the agency to choose whether and when to sell is not always theirs. Up against wealthy buyers attracted by favorable prices and even more favorable price growth, homeowners in areas under rezoning consideration face the weighty task of holding out against offers to buy. Giving in may satisfy immediate financial needs, but, for the lowest-income earners, it almost certainly means displacement from the community as speculation ratchets-up prices.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I think it’s dollars and cents,” said Diaz, who works with the Coalition for Community Advancement in Cypress Hills. “They’re capitalizing on people who may be financially strapped, and that’s a way to harass them, and makes them think…they can pay off their debt and go buy something else. OK, and where are they going to buy something else in Cypress Hills or New York City as a whole?”</p> <p dir="ltr">According to the Coalition for Community Advancement, the median income of homeowners living in one-to-four family houses in East New York is nearly $19,000 below the city-wide median, making it difficult to meet housing and maintenance expenses, including mortgage and loan payments, property tax payments, utilities, and repairs. Because of their effect on taxes and everyday neighborhood expenses, rising property values can actually hurt a homeowner who wants to stay in their house and in their community.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the zip codes that comprise East New York, census data from 2010 show that, of the 15,157 owner-occupied housing units, 12,286 were owned with a mortgage or loan. Less than one-fifth of homeowners were free and clear. For many of these homeowners, the risk of foreclosure is high and buy-out offers, even relatively low ones, may be hard to resist. (It should be noted that the East New York rezoning does not include the entirety of the neighborhood, but a significant portion of it.)</p> <p dir="ltr">Some of the homes in East New York have already changed hands as a result of foreclosure. The 2008 housing collapse resulted in millions of foreclosures nationwide, and in New York City a second wave of foreclosures early this decade further destabilized homeowners. Census surveys in 2010 and 2014 show that the number of owner-occupied units in one East New York zip code fell by 217, or about three percent, in the intervening years.</p> <p dir="ltr">Last year, East New York reported the fourth highest foreclosure rate in the city, according to data from the Coalition for Community Advancement.</p> <p dir="ltr">The foreclosure crisis has not been lost on unscrupulous opportunists, who have inundated New York City homeowners with unlicensed and often illegal mortgage refinancing offers. According to a 2014 <a href="http://www.preventloanscams.org/newsroom/press-releases/body/Who-Can-You-Trust.pdf" target="_blank">report</a> by the Center for NYC Neighborhoods in conjunction with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, “New York homeowners report larger losses to scammers than in the rest of the country.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Because such foreclosure rescue scams are so costly to their victims – they often involve the redirection of mortgage payments towards fraudulent restructuring services – and in many cases lead to more urgent mortgage trouble, they compound the risk of displacement of homeowners who are, by definition, already in distress, and incentivize buy-outs below the potential market prices of the near-future.</p> <p dir="ltr">The areas hit hardest by these scams – Southeast Brooklyn, Southeast Queens, and the Northwest Bronx – are also places where rezoning is being discussed.</p> <p dir="ltr">In addition to the financial stresses that accompany onerous mortgage obligations, the Coalition for Community Advancement reports that a majority of homes in East New York – 64 percent – have a water or sewer lien, demonstrating the level of economic distress faced by homeowners to pay for essentials. Adding to the cost of staying, most of the small housing stock there was built prior to 1950 and, according to several sources, many homes need serious repairs. Increasing property value also means that property taxes will rise, an additional burden to homeowners who do not wish to sell.</p> <p dir="ltr">Diaz, who does not intend to sell her home despite regular solicitation from buyers, says its assessed value has gone up $8,000 in the past year, and that her property tax payments have increased by about $116 a month.</p> <p dir="ltr">The homeowners in areas to be rezoned represent more vulnerable and historically disadvantaged groups that face greater barriers to keeping their homes and greater challenges if they lose them. According to Coalition data, nearly half of all small homeowners in East New York are senior citizens and 89 percent are either black or Hispanic.</p> <p dir="ltr">Many senior citizens in East New York depend on retirement benefits, and some have experienced a significant reduction in income upon retiring. Discussing the challenges faced by seniors in her neighborhood, Diaz said, “I was speaking to a senior just on Sunday, and her income basically decreased by $32,000 when retiring. So that’s a big indicator.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Ring of Investors</strong><br />A mark of community fracture, homebuyers seeking to take advantage of favorable conditions in the market are less and less first-time buyers and end-users. Increasingly, they are investors and big firms using their buying power to flip real estate quickly. The Center for NYC Neighborhoods, which works with the city and state to facilitate home ownership and prevent foreclosure, recently <a href="http://cnycn.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/CNYCN-NYC-Flipping-Analysis.pdf" target="_blank">reported</a> that house flipping in New York City is at a five-year high, with more than 1,800 one-to-four unit homes flipped last year.</p> <p dir="ltr">Speculators, often using public records to identify which doors to knock on, are seeing gross return 29 percent higher than the country-wide rate. It is a practice highlighted by the <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/shows/neighborhood/" target="_blank">There Goes The Neighborhood</a> podcast from WNYC radio and The Nation, which investigates themes of housing, race, and gentrification in New York City.</p> <p dir="ltr">Cypress Hills had the highest median gross return on flipped one-to-four unit houses in the city in 2015, and East New York as a whole experienced the highest volume of flips. The house next to Diaz’s in Cypress Hills, she said, has been bought and resold three times since she bought her home in 2007.</p> <p dir="ltr">Investor-backed buyers have the capital to buy houses that many first-time buyers do not. As a result, they can make cash purchases on houses in foreclosure directly from the bank, renovate them quickly, and sell them or rent out rooms in a significantly higher price tier than many of the current residents of East New York and other neighborhoods can afford. According to the Center’s data, most homes that were originally affordable to families making 95 percent of the area median income (AMI) last year - about $75,000 annually for a family of three - were resold at prices affordable to families making 163 percent of AMI, sometimes only months later.</p> <p dir="ltr">At times, as in <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/20/realestate/commercial/brooklyn-homes-draw-australian-investors.html?_r=0" target="_blank">the case of Dixon Advisory</a>, the Australian firm that has bought up large swaths in Bushwick, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Crown Heights, investors are buying houses with the intent of converting them into market-rate rental units, rather than making them affordable or building more units, a portion of which would have to be made affordable under MIH. Turning units in one-to-four family houses, currently among the more affordable rental options in the area according to Dulchin of ANHD, into market-rate housing would restrict the number of affordable housing units available for preservation in rezoned areas, as well as the potential number of new affordable units that could be built if the land were to be redeveloped.</p> <p dir="ltr">The decrease in affordability of ownership means that many longtime renters will not be able to own property in their neighborhood following rezoning. “For me owning a home was one of life’s plans,” said Diaz. “I know what it is to have two-point-five jobs and say that’s what you are gonna do.” For families who have lived in Cypress Hills all their lives, she said, “it would take some sacrifices to be able to do that.”</p> <p dir="ltr">HPD offers a down payment assistance program for low-income, first-time buyers who can receive up to $15,000 toward a down payment, as well as some low-interest loans for repairs and energy efficiency improvements. Even with assistance funding, though, most homes in East New York will not be affordable to residents there when they are being flipped.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>A Challenge to Affordable Housing Options</strong><br />Home speculation has the potential to impact Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing goals. In addition to feeling pressure from speculators in the areas targeted for rezoning, homeowners also house a significant portion of renters in these communities, people who risk displacement if market prices rise ahead of the development of new affordable housing.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to Humberto Martinez, an urban planner at Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, part of the Coalition for Community Advancement, over 34,000 people live in owner-occupied homes, roughly 40 percent of East New York residents.</p> <p dir="ltr">If homeowners sell their homes en masse to speculators seeking to flip houses into higher price brackets or to create market-rate rental units, many of these renters will be displaced from their homes. According to the Center for NYC Neighborhoods, “The rents required to sustain the resale prices of flipped properties...far exceed the median rents in their boroughs.” Before the mayor’s affordable housing agenda even rolls out in East New York, both renters and former area homeowners may have to leave the community.</p> <p dir="ltr">Unregulated one-to-four unit, owner-occupied buildings are a “hidden supply of affordable housing,” said Dulchin. Because landlords live next to their tenants and often have personal relationships with them, these rental units tend to lag behind the market, providing housing options for some of the lowest-income earners.</p> <p dir="ltr">“One of my cohorts who is also a small home owner, he rents to working Section 8 families,” said Diaz. “With the increase of the taxes it’s made it difficult for the rents to be at the level that they are now. When the homeowner’s expenses exceed those subsidies that they’re getting, they’re gonna have to go outside the box and will no longer be able to rent to those that [depend on public assistance] programs.”</p> <p dir="ltr">David Shichman, director of homelessness prevention at New Alternatives for Children Inc., says that if rents in unregulated buildings are too far below market rates it is a sign of inadequate housing. Often there is doubling- and tripling-up, which is considered a form of homelessness.</p> <p dir="ltr">East New York, in addition to being an area with the potential to greatly increase housing density, was also put forward for rezoning, according to Shichman, because it is “a top catchment area” of eviction and homelessness. As rental prices rise, it is becoming increasingly common for single-resident occupancy units (SROs) to house more than one tenant, which increases burdensome water and sewer charges and compounds the need for repairs.</p> <p dir="ltr">While there was some effort to incorporate homeowner protections into the East New York plan, it seems that the sale of one-to-four unit houses from homeowners to developers is key for enough land to be made available to construct new housing in these low-rise areas. Small homes - under six units - contain 60 percent of all current housing units in East New York. All the same, HPD plans to build three-quarters of the 1,200 new units of affordable housing on privately-owned land over the next two years. Without high-volume buying of small homes by developers, there might not be enough available land for HPD’s development plan to unfold.</p> <p dir="ltr">A senior HPD official said that land speculation simply cannot be stopped, but it can be dampened by Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), which places affordability requirements on developers that could deter those seeking to exploit the market. In an <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/01/" target="_blank">interview</a> last year with New York Magazine, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen said, “I’m not here to be punitive. We want these guys to build.”</p> <p>Whether aggressive speculation at the level experienced by current East New York homeowners is inevitable is under dispute. Paula Crespo, in an email, stated, “The mere announcement [that] the plan [to rezone East New York] would happen has fueled speculation.”</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, Gotham Gazette

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/14298580034_c75bdb858d_z.jpg" width="600" height="399" alt="de blasio homeowners sign sandy" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio (photo: Rob Bennett, Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">As plans to spur new development in areas around New York City proceed, mostly silence surrounds the experience of homeowners who are being pressured by investors to sell. Prior to the City Council’s approval of rezoning East New York, Brooklyn last week, there had been little public discussion of how or whether to ameliorate real estate speculation on small homes. At least in East New York, some homeowner protections have been introduced to the plan, but investor-backed speculation, to some extent, still seems to be part of the city-wide housing agenda.</p> <p dir="ltr">Facing a shortage of housing attainable for moderate- and low-income residents, Mayor Bill de Blasio has stressed the importance of creating a comprehensive affordable housing plan, part of his larger agenda to combat inequality. De Blasio is attempting to harness the sweep of gentrification that continues to displace residents – both renters and small home owners - who are being priced and bought out, especially in the “next” neighborhoods where prices are rising rapidly.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We know right now that we can do a lot to stop evictions from rental apartments,” de Blasio said in a March <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/de-blasios-affordable-housing-fight-shifts-neighborhood-battles/" target="_blank">interview</a> with WNYC. “We don’t have as good a model to protect homeowners that might be the subject of speculation.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor is working with the City Council on much of his housing plan, including tenant protections, new affordable housing requirements, and the rezoning of as many as 15 neighborhoods across the city. East New York’s is the first such rezoning plan to be approved by a Council vote.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Council itself has been especially focused on protecting tenants from eviction. When asked, though, about protections for financially-strapped homeowners who will have trouble resisting aggressive speculation, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito also indicated, like the mayor, that the subject has not been thoroughly discussed. Acknowledging pressure on homeowners as a challenge in a “very hot” market, she said, “Those are things we can talk about as we think about initiatives and existing legal services and getting to more targeted populations.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In the revised East New York rezoning plan, the city has committed to establishing a “Homeowner Helpdesk,” which will be a community-based support service with financial and legal counselors offering advice to homeowners facing overbearing speculators who are drawn in by low prices and the potential for high price growth that comes with the ability to build higher. The city will also provide low-income homeowners with loans and small grants for critical repairs through the Home Improvement Program and Senior Citizen Assistance Program, among others.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), which subsidizes the construction of affordable housing, also says it will work with the Department of Environmental Protection to implement water rate relief programs, and is also looking into the possibility of establishing a “Cease and Desist Zone,” where homeowners would be protected from unwanted solicitation. Buying, however, is still a principal tenet of the agenda to have real estate developers build much of the city’s new affordable housing stock.</p> <p dir="ltr">Part of Mark-Viverito’s East Harlem district is also on the list to be rezoned, as well as neighborhoods including Flushing West, Long Island City, a Jerome Avenue corridor in the Bronx, and a Bay Street Corridor on Staten Island.</p> <p dir="ltr">The rise in sales prices and the interest investors are showing in one-to-four unit houses in areas eyed for rezoning indicate that homeowners may increasingly become the targets of forceful, even predatory, buyers.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mark-Viverito mentioned the calls she herself receives to sell her East Harlem home, while “keys for cash” flyers proliferate in the neighborhoods on the shifting lines of gentrification. Often, even more aggressive tactics are taken by those looking to invest early when a neighborhood appears to be considered for improvement.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Stakeholders and Stakes</strong><br />All homeowners stand to gain from increasing property values in neighborhoods slated for rezoning. Those with moderate incomes and unburdened by mortgages are in particularly good position, whether they decide to take the money and run or stay vested. But many, often most, of the homeowners in areas pending rezoning have relatively low incomes and face significant pressures like mortgage obligations and the cost of maintaining old housing. As investors see greater opportunity in neighborhoods the city plans to upzone, this latter group of homeowners becomes more vulnerable to buyout offers that don’t reflect the value of their assets.</p> <p dir="ltr">For small home owners, the ability of government intervention to prevent displacement and promote affordable housing options falls into a grey area. “Obviously, the first thing we would say to anybody is to encourage nobody to respond to anything unless they get some sort of guidance,” Mark-Viverito said in March of homeowners being approached to sell. “These are challenges that we face in a market that is very hot, you know, that is putting a lot of pressures.”</p> <p dir="ltr">While Mark-Viverito may offer a tip to fellow homeowners - some of whom speak limited English and many of whom are seniors - and the city provides some advice and loan services, homeowners appear to be largely on their own as the city encourages investment in underdeveloped communities. As part of the plan to rezone East New York, the city aims to subsidize the construction of new deeply affordable housing on private land, but in many cases, developers must first buy land from existing homeowners.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Gentrification, rezoning it all trickles and impacts,” said Darma Diaz, a homeowner in Cypress Hills, which is partially included in the East New York rezoning plan. “We definitely know that rents in New York City are high and apartments are hard to find, but it makes [living in the city] that much more challenging when you have the pressure of investors wanting and pursuing and making it really financially lucrative to sell your home.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Diaz has been living in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn since the late 1970s and has owned a home there since 2007. She is worried that small home owners have not received enough attention throughout the city-wide discussion of rezoning as part of the mayor’s affordable housing agenda. “We knew that building more units was necessary for our community, but I think what [the mayor and City Council] did not take into account was the impact that the speculators were gonna have on small home owners.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing plan, in part using legislative tools passed through the City Council in March, includes leveraging property value growth that will come with changing land use regulations to allow greater housing density, encourage construction, and require developers to build tens of thousands of new units of affordable housing. De Blasio’s overall plan is to build and preserve a total of 200,000 units of affordable housing over ten years with varying rent regulations affordable to low-, moderate-, and middle-income New Yorkers. Another 160,000 market-rate units are part of the plan.</p> <p dir="ltr">Benjamin Dulchin, executive director of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD), told Gotham Gazette that the areas pending rezoning are typically regions of the city with high concentrations of low-rise buildings. Now with low housing density, developers will soon be allowed to build higher in these neighborhoods, creating additional market-rate apartments along with mandated affordable units.</p> <p dir="ltr">The buildings that would need to be torn down to make room for the higher, denser housing necessary to achieve the mayor’s goal of 80,000 newly built affordable units are also often the kinds of buildings - one-to-four family houses - that are occupied by the owner.</p> <p dir="ltr">In East New York, a majority of all housing is in buildings with fewer than six units. According to the Coalition for Community Advancement, a group of neighborhood organizations independently monitoring the planning process and pushing for deeper affordability levels, roughly three-quarters of the buildings on sale in East New York are one-to-four family houses.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Department of City Planning’s <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/plans/east-new-york/east-new-york-plan.page" target="_blank">East New York Community Plan</a>, the revised version of which was passed just by the City Council, proposed to change land use rules to allow six- to 14-story buildings to be constructed, which could more than double the area’s population density. In the next two years, HPD plans to build 1,200 new affordable housing units in East New York and, by 2024, seeks to make affordable half of all new units developed in that community.</p> <p dir="ltr">Even before rezoning proposals are approved through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which is the public process involving many city actors that any major land use change must go through, the increase in property value that comes with rezoning has potential to make waves among buyers and investors - and thus, existing homeowners.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the steady sales price growth of New York City real estate over the past five years (20 if you allow for some dips) is cooling, annual price growth in East Brooklyn, which includes Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, Bushwick, Crown Heights, and East New York, increased to a high 20.5 percent in February, exceeding the Brooklyn-wide growth rate by about 300 percent, according to a <a href="http://streeteasy.com/blog/february-2016-market-report/" target="_blank">StreetEasy report</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Alan Lightfeldt, a data scientist at StreetEasy, said that it is impossible to tell what impact the new affordable housing legislation will have on home sales because of the complexity of factors that affect prices, such as the “endemic demand” for homes - the built-in demand that a large city with a population of aspiring homeowners, like New York, almost always has today.</p> <p dir="ltr">That demand is part of the general trend of gentrification, radiating outward as the population continues to grow, business centers expand, and the city becomes <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/27/nyregion/anxiety-aside-new-york-sees-drop-in-crime.html?_r=0" target="_blank">safer</a>. The latest hot neighborhoods are those where prices are still affordable to moderate- and middle-income residents, and that have public transportation infrastructure connecting them to the rest of the city.</p> <p dir="ltr">Paula Crespo, a senior planner at the Pratt Center for Community Development, who works with the Coalition for Community Advancement, provided Gotham Gazette with data that the sales prices of one-to-four family homes has increased by 13 percent in East New York since the rezoning was announced in 2014. Yet, they are still relatively low compared to the city- and borough-wide median sales prices.</p> <p dir="ltr">The combination of low prices and high price growth makes places like East New York incredibly appetizing to real estate speculators who seek to turn a profit. When speculation is rampant, homeowners - both current and prospective - feel the effects.</p> <p dir="ltr">From a market perspective, other considerations aside, “when an area sees widespread value change, especially through external factors like rezoning,” Lightfeldt said, “homeowners usually benefit.” Being able to choose when to sell gives homeowners, like investors, the ability to capitalize on the increase in their property’s value.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Hardships of the Small Home Owner</strong><br />For homeowners who are in debt and facing financial hardship, however, the agency to choose whether and when to sell is not always theirs. Up against wealthy buyers attracted by favorable prices and even more favorable price growth, homeowners in areas under rezoning consideration face the weighty task of holding out against offers to buy. Giving in may satisfy immediate financial needs, but, for the lowest-income earners, it almost certainly means displacement from the community as speculation ratchets-up prices.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I think it’s dollars and cents,” said Diaz, who works with the Coalition for Community Advancement in Cypress Hills. “They’re capitalizing on people who may be financially strapped, and that’s a way to harass them, and makes them think…they can pay off their debt and go buy something else. OK, and where are they going to buy something else in Cypress Hills or New York City as a whole?”</p> <p dir="ltr">According to the Coalition for Community Advancement, the median income of homeowners living in one-to-four family houses in East New York is nearly $19,000 below the city-wide median, making it difficult to meet housing and maintenance expenses, including mortgage and loan payments, property tax payments, utilities, and repairs. Because of their effect on taxes and everyday neighborhood expenses, rising property values can actually hurt a homeowner who wants to stay in their house and in their community.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the zip codes that comprise East New York, census data from 2010 show that, of the 15,157 owner-occupied housing units, 12,286 were owned with a mortgage or loan. Less than one-fifth of homeowners were free and clear. For many of these homeowners, the risk of foreclosure is high and buy-out offers, even relatively low ones, may be hard to resist. (It should be noted that the East New York rezoning does not include the entirety of the neighborhood, but a significant portion of it.)</p> <p dir="ltr">Some of the homes in East New York have already changed hands as a result of foreclosure. The 2008 housing collapse resulted in millions of foreclosures nationwide, and in New York City a second wave of foreclosures early this decade further destabilized homeowners. Census surveys in 2010 and 2014 show that the number of owner-occupied units in one East New York zip code fell by 217, or about three percent, in the intervening years.</p> <p dir="ltr">Last year, East New York reported the fourth highest foreclosure rate in the city, according to data from the Coalition for Community Advancement.</p> <p dir="ltr">The foreclosure crisis has not been lost on unscrupulous opportunists, who have inundated New York City homeowners with unlicensed and often illegal mortgage refinancing offers. According to a 2014 <a href="http://www.preventloanscams.org/newsroom/press-releases/body/Who-Can-You-Trust.pdf" target="_blank">report</a> by the Center for NYC Neighborhoods in conjunction with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, “New York homeowners report larger losses to scammers than in the rest of the country.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Because such foreclosure rescue scams are so costly to their victims – they often involve the redirection of mortgage payments towards fraudulent restructuring services – and in many cases lead to more urgent mortgage trouble, they compound the risk of displacement of homeowners who are, by definition, already in distress, and incentivize buy-outs below the potential market prices of the near-future.</p> <p dir="ltr">The areas hit hardest by these scams – Southeast Brooklyn, Southeast Queens, and the Northwest Bronx – are also places where rezoning is being discussed.</p> <p dir="ltr">In addition to the financial stresses that accompany onerous mortgage obligations, the Coalition for Community Advancement reports that a majority of homes in East New York – 64 percent – have a water or sewer lien, demonstrating the level of economic distress faced by homeowners to pay for essentials. Adding to the cost of staying, most of the small housing stock there was built prior to 1950 and, according to several sources, many homes need serious repairs. Increasing property value also means that property taxes will rise, an additional burden to homeowners who do not wish to sell.</p> <p dir="ltr">Diaz, who does not intend to sell her home despite regular solicitation from buyers, says its assessed value has gone up $8,000 in the past year, and that her property tax payments have increased by about $116 a month.</p> <p dir="ltr">The homeowners in areas to be rezoned represent more vulnerable and historically disadvantaged groups that face greater barriers to keeping their homes and greater challenges if they lose them. According to Coalition data, nearly half of all small homeowners in East New York are senior citizens and 89 percent are either black or Hispanic.</p> <p dir="ltr">Many senior citizens in East New York depend on retirement benefits, and some have experienced a significant reduction in income upon retiring. Discussing the challenges faced by seniors in her neighborhood, Diaz said, “I was speaking to a senior just on Sunday, and her income basically decreased by $32,000 when retiring. So that’s a big indicator.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Ring of Investors</strong><br />A mark of community fracture, homebuyers seeking to take advantage of favorable conditions in the market are less and less first-time buyers and end-users. Increasingly, they are investors and big firms using their buying power to flip real estate quickly. The Center for NYC Neighborhoods, which works with the city and state to facilitate home ownership and prevent foreclosure, recently <a href="http://cnycn.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/CNYCN-NYC-Flipping-Analysis.pdf" target="_blank">reported</a> that house flipping in New York City is at a five-year high, with more than 1,800 one-to-four unit homes flipped last year.</p> <p dir="ltr">Speculators, often using public records to identify which doors to knock on, are seeing gross return 29 percent higher than the country-wide rate. It is a practice highlighted by the <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/shows/neighborhood/" target="_blank">There Goes The Neighborhood</a> podcast from WNYC radio and The Nation, which investigates themes of housing, race, and gentrification in New York City.</p> <p dir="ltr">Cypress Hills had the highest median gross return on flipped one-to-four unit houses in the city in 2015, and East New York as a whole experienced the highest volume of flips. The house next to Diaz’s in Cypress Hills, she said, has been bought and resold three times since she bought her home in 2007.</p> <p dir="ltr">Investor-backed buyers have the capital to buy houses that many first-time buyers do not. As a result, they can make cash purchases on houses in foreclosure directly from the bank, renovate them quickly, and sell them or rent out rooms in a significantly higher price tier than many of the current residents of East New York and other neighborhoods can afford. According to the Center’s data, most homes that were originally affordable to families making 95 percent of the area median income (AMI) last year - about $75,000 annually for a family of three - were resold at prices affordable to families making 163 percent of AMI, sometimes only months later.</p> <p dir="ltr">At times, as in <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/20/realestate/commercial/brooklyn-homes-draw-australian-investors.html?_r=0" target="_blank">the case of Dixon Advisory</a>, the Australian firm that has bought up large swaths in Bushwick, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Crown Heights, investors are buying houses with the intent of converting them into market-rate rental units, rather than making them affordable or building more units, a portion of which would have to be made affordable under MIH. Turning units in one-to-four family houses, currently among the more affordable rental options in the area according to Dulchin of ANHD, into market-rate housing would restrict the number of affordable housing units available for preservation in rezoned areas, as well as the potential number of new affordable units that could be built if the land were to be redeveloped.</p> <p dir="ltr">The decrease in affordability of ownership means that many longtime renters will not be able to own property in their neighborhood following rezoning. “For me owning a home was one of life’s plans,” said Diaz. “I know what it is to have two-point-five jobs and say that’s what you are gonna do.” For families who have lived in Cypress Hills all their lives, she said, “it would take some sacrifices to be able to do that.”</p> <p dir="ltr">HPD offers a down payment assistance program for low-income, first-time buyers who can receive up to $15,000 toward a down payment, as well as some low-interest loans for repairs and energy efficiency improvements. Even with assistance funding, though, most homes in East New York will not be affordable to residents there when they are being flipped.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>A Challenge to Affordable Housing Options</strong><br />Home speculation has the potential to impact Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing goals. In addition to feeling pressure from speculators in the areas targeted for rezoning, homeowners also house a significant portion of renters in these communities, people who risk displacement if market prices rise ahead of the development of new affordable housing.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to Humberto Martinez, an urban planner at Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, part of the Coalition for Community Advancement, over 34,000 people live in owner-occupied homes, roughly 40 percent of East New York residents.</p> <p dir="ltr">If homeowners sell their homes en masse to speculators seeking to flip houses into higher price brackets or to create market-rate rental units, many of these renters will be displaced from their homes. According to the Center for NYC Neighborhoods, “The rents required to sustain the resale prices of flipped properties...far exceed the median rents in their boroughs.” Before the mayor’s affordable housing agenda even rolls out in East New York, both renters and former area homeowners may have to leave the community.</p> <p dir="ltr">Unregulated one-to-four unit, owner-occupied buildings are a “hidden supply of affordable housing,” said Dulchin. Because landlords live next to their tenants and often have personal relationships with them, these rental units tend to lag behind the market, providing housing options for some of the lowest-income earners.</p> <p dir="ltr">“One of my cohorts who is also a small home owner, he rents to working Section 8 families,” said Diaz. “With the increase of the taxes it’s made it difficult for the rents to be at the level that they are now. When the homeowner’s expenses exceed those subsidies that they’re getting, they’re gonna have to go outside the box and will no longer be able to rent to those that [depend on public assistance] programs.”</p> <p dir="ltr">David Shichman, director of homelessness prevention at New Alternatives for Children Inc., says that if rents in unregulated buildings are too far below market rates it is a sign of inadequate housing. Often there is doubling- and tripling-up, which is considered a form of homelessness.</p> <p dir="ltr">East New York, in addition to being an area with the potential to greatly increase housing density, was also put forward for rezoning, according to Shichman, because it is “a top catchment area” of eviction and homelessness. As rental prices rise, it is becoming increasingly common for single-resident occupancy units (SROs) to house more than one tenant, which increases burdensome water and sewer charges and compounds the need for repairs.</p> <p dir="ltr">While there was some effort to incorporate homeowner protections into the East New York plan, it seems that the sale of one-to-four unit houses from homeowners to developers is key for enough land to be made available to construct new housing in these low-rise areas. Small homes - under six units - contain 60 percent of all current housing units in East New York. All the same, HPD plans to build three-quarters of the 1,200 new units of affordable housing on privately-owned land over the next two years. Without high-volume buying of small homes by developers, there might not be enough available land for HPD’s development plan to unfold.</p> <p dir="ltr">A senior HPD official said that land speculation simply cannot be stopped, but it can be dampened by Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), which places affordability requirements on developers that could deter those seeking to exploit the market. In an <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/01/" target="_blank">interview</a> last year with New York Magazine, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen said, “I’m not here to be punitive. We want these guys to build.”</p> <p>Whether aggressive speculation at the level experienced by current East New York homeowners is inevitable is under dispute. Paula Crespo, in an email, stated, “The mere announcement [that] the plan [to rezone East New York] would happen has fueled speculation.”</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, Gotham Gazette

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East New York Deal Sets Precedent for Wave of Rezonings 2016-04-18T23:25:48+00:00 2016-04-18T23:25:48+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6287:east-new-york-deal-sets-precedent-for-wave-of-rezonings Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/espinal_lander_.jpg" width="600" height="454" alt="espinal lander " /></p> <p>City Council Member Rafael Espinal (second from left) (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>Colleagues heaped praise on City Council Member Rafael Espinal last week as the deal he negotiated with the de Blasio administration to rezone a portion of his Brooklyn district was passed through committee. The process and the agreement were being watched closely by Council members, especially those whose districts are in the pipeline for rezonings under Mayor de Blasio’s larger housing plan.</p> <p>Espinal, who represents most of the area being rezoned, which includes part of East New York, managed to extract significant concessions from the city to get to a framework that he said he could be proud of, taking back to his community a robust plan for new housing and infrastructure, job training, tenant protections, and other community amenities.</p> <p>“From the start, I told my community I would fight for a better plan,” Espinal said at the first of the two committee hearings on Thursday. “One that wasn’t just about housing, but about developing a neighborhood that had been neglected for decades.”</p> <p>The package of changes in land use rules, levels of affordability for new housing, and planned investments in East New York sets an important precedent - it is the first of 15 neighborhoods that the de Blasio administration will target for rezoning as part of a plan to create and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over ten years. Next on the list: part of Flushing, corridors in the Bronx and on Staten Island, a portion of East Harlem, and other areas of the city where there is room for additional housing density and neighborhood improvements.</p> <p>Espinal’s fellow Council members expressed widespread approval of the deal he reached, while some members who will soon be in his position are looking at what lessons they can learn. Council Member Donovan Richards, chair of the zoning subcommittee that first voted on the plan, said Espinal had done “a phenomenal job,” while Council Member Vincent Gentile commended him on “a job well done.” Council Member Antonio Reynoso said, “I’ve never seen units that affordable and that much at any city-owned sites.” Council Member Ritchie Torres quipped, “Rafael, you’re the man.”</p> <p>“The East New York Plan represents a new way of planning for New York City," said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in a statement outlining the benefits included in the deal. "I thank Council Member Rafael Espinal for his staunch commitment to his constituents in putting forth a plan that truly meets the needs of East New York,” she said.</p> <p>Perhaps the most effusive was Council Member David Greenfield, chair of the land use committee, which voted second, who called Espinal the “superstar of the day” and characterized the East New York plan as “quite literally the best community affordable housing plan ever in the history of new york.”</p> <p>While each plan will be different, de Blasio is aiming to add thousands of units of housing to a variety of under-developed areas throughout the city in order to create more affordable apartments, while also adding new school seats, improving retail and green spaces, and more. In each case, City Council members and other local stakeholders aim to see how much community benefit they can secure as part of agreeing to major changes to their neighborhoods.</p> <p>Fear of gentrification and displacement often top the list of concerns when an area is identified for rezoning, while many also worry that an influx of additional residents to an area will overwhelm existing infrastructure - transportation, schools, parks, and other public services. These are the issues hanging over discussions between local representatives and the mayoral administration, including city agencies like the City Planning Department and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).</p> <p>East New York is the first application of the newly-approved zoning amendments -- Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability -- which allow taller buildings and denser neighborhoods while mandating that developers set aside a certain ratio of affordable housing units in new developments, making it easier to build affordable senior housing, and creating more attractive retail space.</p> <p>The proposal, which will head to a full council vote on Wednesday, April 20, is an expansive neighborhood development plan that includes $267 million in capital investments in addition to school and sewer construction funded through other streams.</p> <p>“I’m actually calling this the unicorn deal,” Greenfield said. “And the reason I’m calling this the unicorn deal is because quite frankly you’re never gonna see a deal like this again. This is the new standard that’s being set in the city that quite frankly everybody else will chase. But rest assured I can tell you, as the chair of the land use committee, they’re not gonna capture it.”</p> <p>Council Member Deborah Rose hopes that’s not true. One of the next few rezonings is the Bay Street corridor on Staten Island, in Rose’s district, and the East New York plan has bolstered her confidence about the process. “I hope that my rezoning turns out to be the best plan with the most amenities for my communities,” Rose said. She recognizes the “herculean task” of a neighborhood rezoning and navigating the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, saying, “It’s quite stressful and often contentious. Council Member Espinal really wanted to get the deepest affordability he could under the MIH amendment. I only have accolades for him to get that level of affordability.”</p> <p>Rose will be looking for more mixed affordability in her rezoning efforts, she said, not necessarily looking for the lowest income and rent thresholds available under Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, which created several choices for Council members overseeing a rezoning. The MIH bands for creating affordable housing dictate the percentage of new units that must be affordable to households with certain income levels. For instance, the East New York plan, as selected by Espinal, has two of the four options, which developers will be able to choose -- one would require 20 percent of new housing units to be set aside for households making up to 40 percent of Area Median Income ($31,080 for a household of three) and another option would require 25 percent of units at 60 percent AMI (including 10 percent at 40 percent AMI).</p> <p>Rose might select one or more bands that require more affordable units at higher rents - for example, 30 percent of units at 80 percent AMI.</p> <p>What Rose really wants, though, are the second- and third-order investments that come with rezoning. “I see this as an opportunity to address the infrastructure issues that we’ve been trying to remedy since I’ve been in office,” she said, citing improvements that are necessary for increased density, including hospitals, schools, recreational facilities, and, most significantly, transportation. “Through this rezoning, the resources will be available to do that,” she said.</p> <p>While Bay Street corridor might be much smaller than East New York, which is likely to be one of the largest neighborhoods of the 15, Rose isn’t going to hold back on her demands. “My list is as long, probably longer than Espinal’s,” she said.</p> <p>“We’re a manufacturing, residential and commercial area and we’re gonna have to support all those communities,” she added. “I’m eager to get started.”</p> <p>The differences in neighborhoods are definitely going to play an important role in how the city and the Council members approach the rezoning process. Queens Council Member Peter Koo, whose district includes the next neighborhood on the rezoning calendar, said as much.</p> <p>“I applaud Council Member Espinal and the Mayor for negotiating a long, hard-fought list of investments that addresses many of the needs of East New York,” Koo said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “As the focus turns to Flushing, we must remember that every rezoning area has different and distinct needs. Flushing West is on the waterfront which limits depth, and the LaGuardia flight path limits height. We are also already in the middle of a real estate boom, so the city must find a way to balance affordability with infrastructure, particularly to ensure new development does not compound our existing problems with traffic, 7 train capacity and the pollution of the Flushing Creek.”</p> <p>The East New York plan saw several modifications to accommodate demands from community advocates and Espinal, who, along with the Council’s land use director, Raju Mann, led the negotiations with the de Blasio administration, for deeper affordability, anti-displacement mechanisms, and job creation measures.</p> <p>Among the key changes to the plan from the original version proposed by de Blasio’s City Planning Department is removal of the Arlington Village housing development. Residents and activists had expressed concern that the owner, Bluestone Group, which had purchased the property shortly after the proposed rezoning was announced, would take advantage of the upzoning without creating sufficient affordable housing units.</p> <p>The city will also dedicate 500 LINC vouchers to help move about that number of families from homeless shelters into affordable housing, while at the same time moving to close three homeless shelters and encouraging the owners to convert those units into affordable housing. The city has committed to closing two by the end of June and the third in the next fiscal year.</p> <p>A working group of elected officials, community stakeholders and multiple agencies will also look into helping homeowners legalize basement units. If conversions of these units is impractical, the plan sets aside $12 million to support conversions and home repairs. It also mandates a Homeowner Helpdesk to provide financial and legal advice to help homeowners modify mortgages, prevent foreclosures, access loans for repair or weather-proofing, and fight housing scams.</p> <p>To preserve affordable housing, the plan will fund free legal representation to tenants facing harassment, for five years. The plan will fund the acquisition or renovation of a childcare center with $2.8 million in capital funding.</p> <p>While the original proposal had provided for the creation of a new 1000-seat school, it was modified to include another $17.45 million to fund school improvement projects for existing schools.</p> <p>Additionally, the plan also addresses issues of economic and community development, including large infrastructure investments and capital spending. A key part of the proposal is the East New York Industrial Business Zone which will receive $16.7 million in funding to renovate buildings for business use, improve street infrastructure and provide high-speed broadband to businesses. The city will also create a Workforce1 Career Center to provide job recruitment, placement, training and counseling services to residents. The Housing Preservation and Development department will also initiate a Neighborhood Retail Preservation Program to create discounted space for local retailers in new developments. The plan also makes investments to renovate and upgrade two neighborhood parks, create a new NYPD community center, repave streets and replace water and sewer mains.</p> <p>Community advocates and neighborhood groups had protested the East New York plan for not providing deeper levels of affordability for low-income residents. Till Wednesday, the day before the initial Council votes, protesters were pushing Espinal to reject the plan and a few were even arrested outside his district office. The final plan added an option for more affordable housing set asides at public sites but not in private units or to the levels the groups had demanded.</p> <p>Espinal has repeatedly acknowledged this criticism. “The plan isn't perfect,” he said after the hearing, “but this is the best possible plan I was able to get for my community.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/espinal_lander_.jpg" width="600" height="454" alt="espinal lander " /></p> <p>City Council Member Rafael Espinal (second from left) (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>Colleagues heaped praise on City Council Member Rafael Espinal last week as the deal he negotiated with the de Blasio administration to rezone a portion of his Brooklyn district was passed through committee. The process and the agreement were being watched closely by Council members, especially those whose districts are in the pipeline for rezonings under Mayor de Blasio’s larger housing plan.</p> <p>Espinal, who represents most of the area being rezoned, which includes part of East New York, managed to extract significant concessions from the city to get to a framework that he said he could be proud of, taking back to his community a robust plan for new housing and infrastructure, job training, tenant protections, and other community amenities.</p> <p>“From the start, I told my community I would fight for a better plan,” Espinal said at the first of the two committee hearings on Thursday. “One that wasn’t just about housing, but about developing a neighborhood that had been neglected for decades.”</p> <p>The package of changes in land use rules, levels of affordability for new housing, and planned investments in East New York sets an important precedent - it is the first of 15 neighborhoods that the de Blasio administration will target for rezoning as part of a plan to create and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over ten years. Next on the list: part of Flushing, corridors in the Bronx and on Staten Island, a portion of East Harlem, and other areas of the city where there is room for additional housing density and neighborhood improvements.</p> <p>Espinal’s fellow Council members expressed widespread approval of the deal he reached, while some members who will soon be in his position are looking at what lessons they can learn. Council Member Donovan Richards, chair of the zoning subcommittee that first voted on the plan, said Espinal had done “a phenomenal job,” while Council Member Vincent Gentile commended him on “a job well done.” Council Member Antonio Reynoso said, “I’ve never seen units that affordable and that much at any city-owned sites.” Council Member Ritchie Torres quipped, “Rafael, you’re the man.”</p> <p>“The East New York Plan represents a new way of planning for New York City," said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in a statement outlining the benefits included in the deal. "I thank Council Member Rafael Espinal for his staunch commitment to his constituents in putting forth a plan that truly meets the needs of East New York,” she said.</p> <p>Perhaps the most effusive was Council Member David Greenfield, chair of the land use committee, which voted second, who called Espinal the “superstar of the day” and characterized the East New York plan as “quite literally the best community affordable housing plan ever in the history of new york.”</p> <p>While each plan will be different, de Blasio is aiming to add thousands of units of housing to a variety of under-developed areas throughout the city in order to create more affordable apartments, while also adding new school seats, improving retail and green spaces, and more. In each case, City Council members and other local stakeholders aim to see how much community benefit they can secure as part of agreeing to major changes to their neighborhoods.</p> <p>Fear of gentrification and displacement often top the list of concerns when an area is identified for rezoning, while many also worry that an influx of additional residents to an area will overwhelm existing infrastructure - transportation, schools, parks, and other public services. These are the issues hanging over discussions between local representatives and the mayoral administration, including city agencies like the City Planning Department and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).</p> <p>East New York is the first application of the newly-approved zoning amendments -- Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability -- which allow taller buildings and denser neighborhoods while mandating that developers set aside a certain ratio of affordable housing units in new developments, making it easier to build affordable senior housing, and creating more attractive retail space.</p> <p>The proposal, which will head to a full council vote on Wednesday, April 20, is an expansive neighborhood development plan that includes $267 million in capital investments in addition to school and sewer construction funded through other streams.</p> <p>“I’m actually calling this the unicorn deal,” Greenfield said. “And the reason I’m calling this the unicorn deal is because quite frankly you’re never gonna see a deal like this again. This is the new standard that’s being set in the city that quite frankly everybody else will chase. But rest assured I can tell you, as the chair of the land use committee, they’re not gonna capture it.”</p> <p>Council Member Deborah Rose hopes that’s not true. One of the next few rezonings is the Bay Street corridor on Staten Island, in Rose’s district, and the East New York plan has bolstered her confidence about the process. “I hope that my rezoning turns out to be the best plan with the most amenities for my communities,” Rose said. She recognizes the “herculean task” of a neighborhood rezoning and navigating the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, saying, “It’s quite stressful and often contentious. Council Member Espinal really wanted to get the deepest affordability he could under the MIH amendment. I only have accolades for him to get that level of affordability.”</p> <p>Rose will be looking for more mixed affordability in her rezoning efforts, she said, not necessarily looking for the lowest income and rent thresholds available under Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, which created several choices for Council members overseeing a rezoning. The MIH bands for creating affordable housing dictate the percentage of new units that must be affordable to households with certain income levels. For instance, the East New York plan, as selected by Espinal, has two of the four options, which developers will be able to choose -- one would require 20 percent of new housing units to be set aside for households making up to 40 percent of Area Median Income ($31,080 for a household of three) and another option would require 25 percent of units at 60 percent AMI (including 10 percent at 40 percent AMI).</p> <p>Rose might select one or more bands that require more affordable units at higher rents - for example, 30 percent of units at 80 percent AMI.</p> <p>What Rose really wants, though, are the second- and third-order investments that come with rezoning. “I see this as an opportunity to address the infrastructure issues that we’ve been trying to remedy since I’ve been in office,” she said, citing improvements that are necessary for increased density, including hospitals, schools, recreational facilities, and, most significantly, transportation. “Through this rezoning, the resources will be available to do that,” she said.</p> <p>While Bay Street corridor might be much smaller than East New York, which is likely to be one of the largest neighborhoods of the 15, Rose isn’t going to hold back on her demands. “My list is as long, probably longer than Espinal’s,” she said.</p> <p>“We’re a manufacturing, residential and commercial area and we’re gonna have to support all those communities,” she added. “I’m eager to get started.”</p> <p>The differences in neighborhoods are definitely going to play an important role in how the city and the Council members approach the rezoning process. Queens Council Member Peter Koo, whose district includes the next neighborhood on the rezoning calendar, said as much.</p> <p>“I applaud Council Member Espinal and the Mayor for negotiating a long, hard-fought list of investments that addresses many of the needs of East New York,” Koo said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “As the focus turns to Flushing, we must remember that every rezoning area has different and distinct needs. Flushing West is on the waterfront which limits depth, and the LaGuardia flight path limits height. We are also already in the middle of a real estate boom, so the city must find a way to balance affordability with infrastructure, particularly to ensure new development does not compound our existing problems with traffic, 7 train capacity and the pollution of the Flushing Creek.”</p> <p>The East New York plan saw several modifications to accommodate demands from community advocates and Espinal, who, along with the Council’s land use director, Raju Mann, led the negotiations with the de Blasio administration, for deeper affordability, anti-displacement mechanisms, and job creation measures.</p> <p>Among the key changes to the plan from the original version proposed by de Blasio’s City Planning Department is removal of the Arlington Village housing development. Residents and activists had expressed concern that the owner, Bluestone Group, which had purchased the property shortly after the proposed rezoning was announced, would take advantage of the upzoning without creating sufficient affordable housing units.</p> <p>The city will also dedicate 500 LINC vouchers to help move about that number of families from homeless shelters into affordable housing, while at the same time moving to close three homeless shelters and encouraging the owners to convert those units into affordable housing. The city has committed to closing two by the end of June and the third in the next fiscal year.</p> <p>A working group of elected officials, community stakeholders and multiple agencies will also look into helping homeowners legalize basement units. If conversions of these units is impractical, the plan sets aside $12 million to support conversions and home repairs. It also mandates a Homeowner Helpdesk to provide financial and legal advice to help homeowners modify mortgages, prevent foreclosures, access loans for repair or weather-proofing, and fight housing scams.</p> <p>To preserve affordable housing, the plan will fund free legal representation to tenants facing harassment, for five years. The plan will fund the acquisition or renovation of a childcare center with $2.8 million in capital funding.</p> <p>While the original proposal had provided for the creation of a new 1000-seat school, it was modified to include another $17.45 million to fund school improvement projects for existing schools.</p> <p>Additionally, the plan also addresses issues of economic and community development, including large infrastructure investments and capital spending. A key part of the proposal is the East New York Industrial Business Zone which will receive $16.7 million in funding to renovate buildings for business use, improve street infrastructure and provide high-speed broadband to businesses. The city will also create a Workforce1 Career Center to provide job recruitment, placement, training and counseling services to residents. The Housing Preservation and Development department will also initiate a Neighborhood Retail Preservation Program to create discounted space for local retailers in new developments. The plan also makes investments to renovate and upgrade two neighborhood parks, create a new NYPD community center, repave streets and replace water and sewer mains.</p> <p>Community advocates and neighborhood groups had protested the East New York plan for not providing deeper levels of affordability for low-income residents. Till Wednesday, the day before the initial Council votes, protesters were pushing Espinal to reject the plan and a few were even arrested outside his district office. The final plan added an option for more affordable housing set asides at public sites but not in private units or to the levels the groups had demanded.</p> <p>Espinal has repeatedly acknowledged this criticism. “The plan isn't perfect,” he said after the hearing, “but this is the best possible plan I was able to get for my community.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>