EDITORIAL: The City Council Should Vote No on Mayor’s Housing Plan

New York City’s housing-affordability crisis is directly linked to pro-landlord rent laws that will eventually lead to the complete dismantling of rent regulation. Vacancy decontrol, vacancy bonuses, the preferential rent scam, permanent major-capital-improvement (MCI) charges, and individual-apartment-improvement (IAI) charges all create a means to raise rents higher and faster, and give landlords an incentive to evict long–term tenants. The one million rent-regulated homes are the city’s greatest source of affordable housing, and their preservation and protection should be this administration’s top housing priority.

Instead, the Administration is more focused on new construction, rezoning more land for developers, and securing tax breaks like 421-a. We have seen the impact of this type of market-based solution before: Under Michael Bloomberg, there were over 100 rezonings. Rents have not gotten any cheaper. Simply building more market-rate and luxury development is not the solution. The mayor’s housing plan would create housing that is 70 to 75 percent market-rate in communities that are low-income. This plan is already unleashing gentrification and secondary displacement. As a result, we will likely lose more affordable units due to rising market prices than we would build in this plan.

Second, most of the small amount of affordable housing being offered will be for households above the median income of New York City, and well above the median incomes of the neighborhoods being rezoned. The charts and figures in the mayor’s own housing plan demonstrate that the New Yorkers who are most rent burdened and have the hardest time finding an apartment within their means are very low-income and extremely low-income families, those making less than $42,000 a year (50 percent of Area Median Income for a family of four).

There are one million of these families struggling with housing insecurity. They will not find relief in the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing plan. What’s worse is the attempt to pass off housing for households earning $103,000 (120 percent of AMI) with a rent of $2,600 a month as “affordable”—an easy out for developers looking to maximize profits.

The City Council can and should demand better. As the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development has shown from analyzing the city’s own numbers, it would be viable to include an option to require 30 percent of the housing built to go to people at 30 percent of AMI ($25,900 for a family of four). In addition, Met Council believes that more can be leveraged out of the density developers want. Through the Real Affordability for All voluntary density bonus, we can achieve projects that are 50 percent affordable to families at 50 percent of AMI ($43,000  for a family of four) and below, while creating good union construction jobs. We believe that rents should be low enough for a fast -food worker earning $15 an hour to afford, and that construction workers should earn enough to afford the housing that they build.

Met Council on Housing urges the City Council to vote “No” on Mandatory Inclusionary Housing unless the MIH plan is amended to include an option for 30 percent at 30 percent of AMI, to remove the 120% AMI option, and to include the RAFA density bonus.