Twitter: www.twitter.com/austinshafran (@austinshafran) Instagram: www.instagram.com/austinshafran
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 organized/led affordable housing campaigns on the city/state level for the past 15 years, including 2019’s landmark rent regulation/tenant protection expansions in Albany. As a strategist working with the Upstate/Downstate Housing Alliance, I played significant roles in the passage of 9 Housing Justice for All platform bills, including 7 to close the worst loopholes in existing rent control/stabilization laws, e.g., Vacancy Decontrol repeal/prohibitions against evictions without good cause.
3. What type of housing do you currently live in?
Unregulated Rental Apt
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)
Continuing to build greater affordable housing accessibility/availability is paramount, especially as families have been hit hard financially by COVID. I would introduce new citywide legislation to change regs to require affordable units in all new construction for R6-R10 zones, allowing for the creation of thousands of new affordable units every year without up-zonings (instead of sweetheart deals for developers). A citywide text amendment to mandate a minimum of affordable units in R6-R10 zones for new construction would create no burden on existing development, but instead would place levels based on income/zip code, along with affordability levels to could determine the number of included units. The amount of affordable units built elsewhere would have to be a multiple of onsite amount and completed with C of Os prior to approvals granted for the onsite market-rate development. By mandating affordable units in as-of-right development, thousands of new units will be constructed.
9. Do you believe that housing should be de-commodified? Continuing to build greater affordable housing accessibility/availability is paramount, especially as families have been hit hard financially by COVID. I would introduce new citywide legislation to change regs to require affordable units in all new construction for R6-R10 zones, allowing for the creation of thousands of new affordable units every year without up-zonings (instead of sweetheart deals for developers). A citywide text amendment to mandate a minimum of affordable units in R6-R10 zones for new construction would create no burden on existing development, but instead would place levels based on income/zip code, along with affordability levels to could determine the number of included units. The amount of affordable units built elsewhere would have to be a multiple of onsite amount and completed with C of Os prior to approvals granted for the onsite market-rate development. By mandating affordable units in as-of-right development, thousands of new units will be constructed.
9a. What would you do as an elected representative to move that vision forward? (500 characters)
10. Do you support the move to legalize basement apts? No
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?
Legislative proposals for a new 10-year comprehensive planning framework are good means to better track executive capital projects/performance and reorganize/prioritize City/State/Federal spending. Even recent funding allocations have been largely ineffective and poorly informed to meet the most pressing needs. I’d push for a city-imposed fee on new development, requiring payment into a pool of resources for the city to administer NYCHA support by residential/commercial property developers.
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)
There must be strict affordable housing mandates including good family sustaining jobs and affordable housing for families at all income levels. The rezoning would need to ensure an 80/20 split for affordable housing is included and the threshold to qualify as low-income should be reduced to allow for more people to qualify as eligible.
20. What reforms to zoning would you propose to increase community input into development? (500 characters)
Community Boards could play a more robust role in the land use process. The Council could pass legislation that gives CBs more than just an advisory role, but instead would actually bind the Council Member to follow the decision if it’s approved by a two-thirds super majority of the CB.
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 80%
23. What is/has been the most important land use fight in your district and what position did you take on it? (500 characters)
Not in my district but adjacent to it there was the recent fight over the Flushing Waterfront Special District. I worked with 32BJ and HTC on political organizing efforts first to block the project and then to win key concessions from the developers (who had as of right development status for most of the project area) to ensure that more affordable housing and quality union jobs with strong workforce protections were agreed to as part of the deal.
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)
Simple – make them tougher and escalating initial fines that can’t be factored into the cost of daily business operations and make them face the distinct threat of loss of property rights with their buildings being put into independent monitor and receivership programs, as well as do more to enforce outstanding tax liens and collections against landlords that harass tenants.
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)
Shelter placement must be done with real community input and a full/exhaustive study of impact points like siting’s adherence to the character of each neighborhood, local transit/parking/school/other services impact and whether the area has attendant medical/supportive housing/social services for homeless population. DHS’ ability to place shelters in communities with little oversight/community agreement is repugnant to civic engagement. A ULURP style process would better serve these decisions.
32. Do you agree that all evictions are bad? Yes
32a. If no, why not? My answer is yes, but further explanation: An eviction is the last resort that occurs when there’s been a breakdown of the LL/T relationship. Whether it’s due to financial circumstances, harassment, degradation of services and inadequate living conditions or it’s simply a case of a landlord trying to push out tenants to bring in more lucrative renters or convert property to another use, an eviction occurs when the process has broken down and it’s always the tenant forced to bear the burden.
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)
I’ll use the Council office as a bully pulpit, organize colleagues and work with advocates to push the RGB to lower rents for rent stabilized tenants.
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? No