Amit Bagga

Amit Bagga

amitforcouncil.com

Twitter:  Instagram: amitforcouncil

Do you believe housing is a human right? Yes

What type of action have you taken in the past around issues of housing justice? (500 characters)

I’ve worked extensively on issues of homelessness prevention through HomeBase programs, source of income discrimination, and universal access to counsel.

In addition, as Deputy Director of NYC Census 2020, I brokered first-of-their-kind agreements that allowed for complete counts of both shelter populations and NYCHA residents, making NYC the only jurisdiction in the nation to ensure such counts of residents experiencing homelessness and those in public housing as part of the 2020 Census.

3. What type of housing do you currently live in?              

Own a co-op, condo or private home

4. Are you, or have you ever been, a landlord? No

4a. If yes, where & how many apts. did you own?

5. Does your campaign accept contributions from real estate developers (including related individuals), corporate lobbyists, organizations that participate in the carceral system, and/or landlords? No

6. Have you ever worked in, or had another affiliation with, the Real Estate industry?  No

7. Have any of your campaign or advisory staff held a position as a corporate lobbyist or an executive role with the Real Estate industry? No

6. & 7. If so, how can we be assured you will have tenants’ interests in mind?  (250 characters)

8. What do you think are the most pressing Housing issues & what action would you take to address them as a City Council Member?  (1000 characters)

1. Broken Land Use Process/No Planning: ULURP needs to be entirely overhauled so that communities, not developers, are dictating needs. We need a truly community-driven comprehensive plan that mandates meaningful racial and environmental impact studies, and requires resiliency planning.

2. Homelessness/Rehousing: Shelter is the most expensive and least dignified way to house New Yorkers, and yet we spend $2 billion on it annually. Instead of mandating lengthy shelter stays, we should be immediately rehousing New Yorkers whenever possible, and we need to repurpose our existing budgets to increase rental voucher amounts and expand access to counsel in housing court citywide.

3. Affordable for Whom?: Given its nature, AMI is a terrible tool to actually assess affordability levels. We need a “Vulnerability Index” based on a deep analysis of overcrowding, health/educational factors, quality of current housing, and more to have a true analysis of what affordability needs to look like.

9. Do you believe that housing should be de-commodified?  1. Broken Land Use Process/No Planning: ULURP needs to be entirely overhauled so that communities, not developers, are dictating needs. We need a truly community-driven comprehensive plan that mandates meaningful racial and environmental impact studies, and requires resiliency planning.

2. Homelessness/Rehousing: Shelter is the most expensive and least dignified way to house New Yorkers, and yet we spend $2 billion on it annually. Instead of mandating lengthy shelter stays, we should be immediately rehousing New Yorkers whenever possible, and we need to repurpose our existing budgets to increase rental voucher amounts and expand access to counsel in housing court citywide.

3. Affordable for Whom?: Given its nature, AMI is a terrible tool to actually assess affordability levels. We need a “Vulnerability Index” based on a deep analysis of overcrowding, health/educational factors, quality of current housing, and more to have a true analysis of what affordability needs to look like.

9a. What would you do as an elected representative to move that vision forward? (500 characters)

Yes

10. Do you support the move to legalize basement apts?  Yes

11. Do you support the concept of rent regulation and eviction protections? Yes

12. Do you believe in publicly owned and controlled housing? Yes

13. NYCHA has suffered from chronic underfunding, neglect and disrepair. What do you see as the best strategies to rectify these problems?

The City will never be able to address NYCHA’s $30B-plus capital need on its own. We must fight hard in Albany to raise taxes on the rich to generate the needed revenue. NYCHA must be the City’s top target for investment from divesting PD funds, and the City must also change its debt service calculation, which could free up $2 – $3B annually to address the most urgent mold and lead needs. We also need management reform at NYCHA that allows us to use the annually unspent $200M in capital dollars

14. Do you support the NYCHA 2.0 Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD)/ PACT program and other privatization schemes? No

15. Would you support an immediate moratorium on the sale or lease of all City-owned land and air rights to for-profit developers? Yes

16. Would you require that any housing built on public land be 100% permanently affordable to low- and extremely-low income New Yorkers? Yes

17. Would you aggressively use City programs and eminent domain to take ownership of distressed properties and transfer them to community control such as Community Land Trusts?      Yes

18. Would you end the custom of deferring to local council members on land use decisions? Yes

19. What standards would a rezoning need to meet for you to support it? (500 characters)

We must first have a truly community-driven comprehensive plan that allows us to identify housing needs. Proposals must fulfil such needs & must not result in any racial displacement or have any adverse environment impacts. The studies to determine this must be done in conjunction in communities and not only by City bureaucracies. If such thresholds can be met, then units must be deeply & permanently affordable, not just driven by AMI. Critical infrastructure improvements must also be included.

20. What reforms to zoning would you propose to increase community input into development?  (500 characters)

ULURP needs to be totally overhauled so that communities, not developers, are dictating housing needs. The City must formally place tenant & housing organizers, not just Community Boards, at the heart of this process. A complete housing vulnerability assessment that considers many factors (overcrowding, health outcomes, transit access) at the ZIP code-level must be conducted to identify affordability levels and it is only based on those levels that developers should be forced to make proposals.

21. Would you pass and enforce a true racial impact study as part of any rezoning?  Yes

Percentage of people who are below 200% of the poverty line 80% Percentage of Unhoused New Yorkers  20%

23. What is/has been the most important land use fight in your district and what position did you take on it?  (500 characters)

The most important land use fight in this district was the fight against Amazon, and I stood firmly against its arrival. It is simply unconscionable that the City and State would even consider hundreds of millions in subsidies to the world’s largest corporation. There are many reasons this was a bad proposal; a chief one for me is Amazon’s abhorrent labor practices. Any employer that exploits its workers, thwarts unionization, and pays criminally low wages despite its wealth has no place in NYC.

24. Would you support increased funding and oversight of NYC Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and Mayor’s Tenant Protection Unit to educate tenants on their rights to organize in NYC rental buildings? YesYes

25. Will you support the City seeking injunctions against the landlords on the Right to Counsel’s “worst evictors list,” barring worst evictors from bringing eviction cases while under investigation, and implementing good cause evictions protections? Yes

26. Do you support expanding funding and oversight of the City’s emergency repair program to correct hazardous violations and send the owner the bill? Yes

27. How would you use your office to put pressure on landlords to make repairs and stop harassing tenants?  (500 characters)

If the City can have a “worst landlords” list, so can a Council Member. Using the bully pulpit is a key component of calling attention to problematic actors. In addition, I would fight to fully fund Code Enforcement and also support increased fines for code violations. We must consider working with State colleagues to give HPD authority to bring its own cases more easily in State court, which would force landlords’ hands in fine payment and tenant restitution.

28. Do you support the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA—Int 0737-2018) and Commercial Rent Stabilization bill (Int 1796-2019) currently in committee in the City Council?Yes

29. Do you support converting hotel rooms into permanently affordable apts? Yes

30. Would you end the practice of police responding to people who are homeless?  Yes

31. Would you oppose homeless shelters being built in your district? No

31a. Why or why not?  (500 characters)

The City has a legal obligation to house all New Yorkers in need of shelter and as New Yorkers, we have moral and ethical obligations to our neighbors to ensure that no one goes unhoused. Attempts to oppose purpose-built shelters that can adequately provide all necessary on-site supports are rooted in racism and classism and have no place in where all residents must have the right to live with dignity.

32. Do you agree that all evictions are bad? Yes

32a. If no, why not? As a general matter, all evictions are bad. There are situations, such as the instance of domestic abuse or posed danger to others, where a tenant might need to be removed from a building. Importantly, if in an example of spousal abuse, only the violent individual should be evicted and the remaining party should receive additional resource support and protections. Still with this example, the abuser should be placed in restorative justice and not directed immediately into the carceral system.

33. Are you committed to making sure every tenant has free access to counsel in Housing Court? Yes

34. Would you support an eviction moratorium every winter (Heat Season Oct. 1-May 31)?  Yes

35. Do you believe that the Rent Guidelines Board should lower rents for rent stabilized tenants? Yes

35a. If yes, what will you do to influence the board to do so?  (500 characters)
We must immediately pass legislation to change the make-up of the RGB. Currently, all 9 members are appointed by the Mayor and membership requirements are far too constrained . The Council must have appointments on the Board and the requirements must be expanded to include representatives of immigrant communities, folks experiencing homelessness, and others. Until and unless we can have major reform of the make-up of the RGB, we will not be able to change its decision making processes.

36. Have you ever testified on behalf of tenants at a public hearing of the RGB? No

37. Do you support restricting the ability of landlords to discriminate and surveil tenants through the use of technologies such as key fobs, smartphone apps, and facial recognition to gain entry into their apartment units and/or buildings? Yes

38. Will you commit to only vote for a budget that decreases funding to the NYPD? Yes