District  68 William Smith             

Will you publicize an endorsement from Met Council Action? Yes            

Will you pledge to meet with us regularly? Yes

What type of housing do you live in? Limited Equity Co-Op / HFDC / Mitchell-Lama

Are you now, or have you ever been a landlord? No

If yes, how many units? 0

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

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

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

If so, how can we be assured you will have tenants’ interests in mind? I will always uphold my obligation to advocate for tenants rights and interests through organizing, po

Do you believe housing is a human right?Yes

If so, what does that mean to you? I strongly advocate for housing to be recognized as a fundamental human right, not merely a commodity. While some market involvement is necessary, especially in affordable housing development, our main goal should be to ensure that everyone has access to safe and affordable housing.

One effective strategy is to explore alternative housing models that prioritize residents’ well-being over financial gain, such as community land trusts and non-profit housing cooperatives.

Additionally, government involvement as a landlord can play a crucial role in ensuring housing is not treated as a commodity. Programs like HDFC and the preservation of legacy properties under the Till program are vital for strengthening affordable housing options and preventing displacement, ensuring housing affordability and stability.

In conclusion, our focus should be on establishing a housing system that prioritizes residents’ needs, promotes equity, and is sustainable in the long term. This requires recognizing housing as a right, not a commodity, and implementing policies and programs that reflect this belief.

What actions have you taken in the past to fight for housing justice? In my role at the New York State Assembly Office of Housing Committee Chairman (2013-2016), I conducted in-depth analysis of social and economic factors for the Assembly Member and senior staff, supporting official coordination for a rally at Lincoln Houses in 2015. This effort, prior to passage by the legislature, was instrumental in securing over $125 million in capital funding for the New York City Housing Authority. My analysis included examining financial data related to regional median incomes and federal budget allocations, which informed recommendations for official comment letters to NYCHA Annual Plan amendments.

Since 2021, as an elected Democratic District Leader (Executive Part D, 68th District) and a member of the county judiciary committee, I’ve been a steadfast advocate for enhancing civic & judicial education. My goal is to equip our communities with the knowledge and tools necessary to actively participate in the political process, especially in advancing housing justice.

To achieve this goal, I’ve led over 15 workshops focused on the judicial process. These workshops included community visits to the Manhattan civil court house, where residents were guided on navigating the legal system for potential HP actions and other legal matters. Our aim was to educate communities on the judicial electoral and political endorsement process, highlighting details about judicial screening panels and qualifications.

Furthermore, I’ve co-sponsored virtual forums for candidates running for Countywide Civil Court & County Supreme Court positions. These forums were essential for residents to question candidates about their positions on housing access, tenant rights, and their overall understanding of the law.

What are the most pressing housing issues, and what would you do as an elected official to address them?  As a candidate for Assembly Member, I am deeply committed to addressing the housing affordability crisis affecting low to middle-income residents in New York State. The current rent regulations are inadequate and fail to reflect the rapidly rising cost of housing, leading to housing instability and unaffordable rents. To address these challenges, I would work collaboratively with the Met Council and key stakeholders on proposing a comprehensive plan with the following key components:

Exploration of Subsidies for Community Land Trusts: I will advocate for subsidies to encourage the development of community land trusts, making them financially viable through tax incentives and other subsidies. Community land trusts have proven effective in providing long-term affordable housing solutions, and we need to support their expansion.

Limiting Rent Increases: I will sponsor state legislation to implement stricter limits on rent increases, capping them at 0.25% or 0.50% and freezing them for the next 1-2 years. This measure will ensure that rents remain stable and affordable for tenants, with a capped minimal percentage increase to prevent excessive burdens on tenants.

Advocacy for NYCHA Residents: I will advocate for NYCHA residents around Section 9 conversions via RAD/PACT or Preservation Trust. We will ensure we educate residents and advocate for strict compliance by NYCHA on apartment warehousing rules to ensure potential managers of these NYCHA properties are not given an unfair advantage.

Landlord Acceptance of NYS/NYC FEPS/LINC Vouchers: Would create a comprehensive plan to expand the acceptance of these vouchers by landlords.

Formal Review of Mayoral Appointees to the NYC Rent Guidelines Board: I will champion legislation to mandate a formal review process by the State Legislature with oversight responsibilities assigned to the local City Council for all mayoral appointees to the Rent Guidelines Board, including a public hearing to evaluate their qualifications and suitability.

Mandatory Training for Members of the NYC Rent Guidelines Board: We will require all members of the Rent Guidelines Board to undergo mandatory training on rent regulations, housing policy, tenant rights, and detailed snapshots of the financial burden of rent increases on households of all sizes and ages.

Regular Reporting of Eviction and Assistance Data: We will require the Rent Guidelines Board to maintain and report data on the number of evictions due to rent payment issues, the number of HRA one-shot assistance applications, and the number of evictions per quarter in the fiscal year.

We must coalition-collaboratively advocate for a reassessment of the area median income (AMI) formula through various channels, such as the Assembly Committee on State-Federal Relations and the NYC Council, urging Congress to legislate on adjusting the AMI or for HUD rule changes. The AMI calculation, which determines fair market rents (FMR), has a direct impact on housing affordability. Exploring community-based AMI calculations can promote fairness and reduce housing barriers. I am dedicated to advocating for changes to the AMI calculation to preserve affordable housing in New York.

Have you or anyone close to you (family, friend, etc) been evicted or been threatened with eviction? Yes

Have you ever had to fight a landlord for repairs or faced harassment? Yes

Do you believe that housing should be decommodified?Yes

Please explain your answer. I strongly advocate for housing to be recognized as a fundamental human right, not merely a commodity. While some market involvement is necessary, especially in affordable housing development, our main goal should be to ensure that everyone has access to safe and affordable housing.

One effective strategy is to explore alternative housing models that prioritize residents’ well-being over financial gain, such as community land trusts and non-profit housing cooperatives.

Additionally, government involvement as a landlord can play a crucial role in ensuring housing is not treated as a commodity. Programs like HDFC and the preservation of legacy properties under the Till program are vital for strengthening affordable housing options and preventing displacement, ensuring housing affordability and stability.

In conclusion, our focus should be on establishing a housing system that prioritizes residents’ needs, promotes equity, and is sustainable in the long term. This requires recognizing housing as a right, not a commodity, and implementing policies and programs that reflect this belief.

Do you believe in publicly owned and controlled housing? Yes

What is one rent and/or eviction protection you would enact if you had the opportunity? I would propose a law preventing landlords from evicting residents solely because they receive subsidies like Section 8, Section 9, HUD, VA, NYS FEPS, City FEPS, or LINC vouchers and/or consideration for a HRA One-shot assistance application. Submission

Do you agree that all evictions are bad? Yes

Why or why not? Every household deserves a home.

Do you support the concept of universal rent control? Yes

Do you support the NYCHA 2.0 Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) and other privatization schemes? No

Please explain why or why not No the federal government has not upheld its obligation to ensure that properties predomentialy reliant on operating and capital subsidies.

What do you see as the best strategies to rectify these problems? The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is crucial to addressing the city’s affordable housing shortage and providing stability for low and moderate-income residents. However, NYCHA faces significant financial challenges, underscoring the need for a reassessment of the State Government’s obligation to adequately fund public housing. The federal government has also failed to adequately support properties reliant on subsidies.

If elected to the State Assembly, I would request assignment to the Committee on State-Federal Relations and work closely with its members to prioritize federal subsidy equity. We must advocate for Congress to increase financial support for NYCHA to ensure its sustainability. The Subcommittee on Public Housing should be immediately reestablished by the Standing Committee on Housing with a mandate to consistently evaluate the interests and policy making of state public housing authorities (PHA)s like NYCHA, receive the legislative/budgetary focus necessary. The reestablished committee should work closely with social services, and labor committee on ways to strengthen human services, empowerment and tenant protection in public housing developments across the City of New York and broader State of New York. 

The operating subsidy for PHAs covers the gap between their operating expenses and income. However, the current formula does not adequately consider NYCHA’s high operating costs in a city with high inflation and stagnant income growth. Due to proration, NYCHA has lost billions in cumulative operating funding. I would advocate through the State Legislature to liaise with US Congress and recommend adjustments to Federal rules so PHAs like NYCHA are able to better meet program needs and eligibility.

To address these issues, Congress should streamline and increase the overall funding eligibility for NYCHA operating subsidies. The State Legislature has a obligation to ensure its state charted authority meets its core mission, housing for those in need.

How would you use your office to put pressure on landlords to make repairs and stop harassing tenants? Collaborate with NYSDHR and HUD: Work closely with the New York State Division of Human Rights (NYSDHR) on outreach efforts and collaborate with the HUD regional administrator to address issues with landlords of HUD-assisted properties. I would use legislative action to push for legislation that increases penalties for non-compliant landlords, including fines, mandatory repairs, and potentially criminal charges for severe cases of harassment. I would sponsor tenant awareness workshops across the district but specifically in buildings with landlord repair issues. I would support our residents with initiatives to increase tenant awareness of their rights and available resources. I would push for funding in the state budget for tenant training, advocacy training, leadership groups and public education campaigns. Finally, I would work with local and borough wide legal assistance service providers to improve access to legal representation for tenants facing harassment or eviction by supporting funding for legal aid organizations and programs offering pro bono services to low-income tenants.

Do you support regulating the 300,000 deregulated rent-stabilized apartments?Yes

Will you support increased funding and oversight hearings of DHCR’s Office of Rent Administration to ensure timely responses on overcharge complaints and rent reduction orders for hazardous conditions? Yes

Do you support stronger penalties against landlords that practice source of income discrimination?Yes

Do you support Good Cause Eviction Protections? Yes

What will you do to ensure Good Cause gets passed this session? Yes it would be a top tier priority.

Will you support ending MCIs? Yes

Will you commit to fully funding the Housing Access Voucher Program? Yes

Do you support the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA)? Yes

How will you support tenants in your district opting into TOPA? Financial education and legal assistance services so they have the full support to opt into the TOPA program with a sustainable pathway to success.

Do you support the move to legalize basement apartments and Accessory dwelling units? Yes

Do you support 421a or Gov Hochul’s proposed 485w? Yes

Do you support fully funding the Unemployment Bridge Program (S3192 | A4821)? Yes

Do you support the vacancy reset bill? No

Are you committed to making sure every tenant in the state has free access to counsel in Housing Court by fully funding Right to Counsel in 2025’s budget? Yes

What will you do to ensure that OCA makes proceedings for tenants facing eviction fair by slowing down cases to match the capacity of legal service providers? Yes

Do you support the creation of a Social Housing Development Authority? Yes

Do you support legislation to reform the NYC Rent Guidelines Board? Yes

Do you support the Universal Rent Control bill (to be introduced) – do you support expanding rent regulation to smaller buildings? Yes Do you support increasing the Individual Apartment Increases (IAI) allowance? No