Latchmi Gopal

Latchmi Gopal

Twitter: @latchmigopal Instagram: @latchmigopal

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 serve on the Associate Board of WHEDco (Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corp), which is a Bronx-based organization dedicated to creating affordable housing and meeting community needs. I believe housing justice to be deeply entwined with economic justice, which is why I have fought tirelessly to raise the minimum wage and make transit more affordable, organizing with Riders Alliance and Unemployed Workers United. I am dedicated to creating security and prosperity for all Bronxites.

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)

Lack of housing is a systemic problem that leads to deeply entrenched inequality, pain, and suffering in District 15. We need leaders who are going to build sustained organizing efforts around increased funding. That funding must improve the dire conditions many people are forced to live in, by investing in long-overdue renovations. It also needs to go towards constructing new housing, so that residents are not pushed out of their borough by predatory real-estate development. First and foremost, especially in my district, is to adjust the way the AMI is calculated, so that rents are reflective of the actual income of the community. We also need to invest in social housing, so that profit incentives are taken out of the equation, and housing can be responsive to the needs of the community rather than the market. Furthermore we must increase the percentage of affordable housing designated for unhoused people, so that we can set community members up for long term stability.

9. Do you believe that housing should be de-commodified?  Lack of housing is a systemic problem that leads to deeply entrenched inequality, pain, and suffering in District 15. We need leaders who are going to build sustained organizing efforts around increased funding. That funding must improve the dire conditions many people are forced to live in, by investing in long-overdue renovations. It also needs to go towards constructing new housing, so that residents are not pushed out of their borough by predatory real-estate development. First and foremost, especially in my district, is to adjust the way the AMI is calculated, so that rents are reflective of the actual income of the community. We also need to invest in social housing, so that profit incentives are taken out of the equation, and housing can be responsive to the needs of the community rather than the market. Furthermore we must increase the percentage of affordable housing designated for unhoused people, so that we can set community members up for long term stability.

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 funds reallocated from the NYPD’s budget and those raised by increasing taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers should be used to fund NYCHA.  The state and federal governments also need to be consistently lobbied in order to secure additional funding for the city. That’s part of why I’m fighting to implement participatory budgeting and other pro-democracy efforts, so that residents have a voice in budgeting and can build power to pressure elected officials and bring about lasting change.

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 need to be cognizant of the segregation that is widespread in NYC. My top priority would be to fight for social housing, which is a public option for all residents. This makes sure that low-income renters are able to access housing that exists only to serve the community and isn’t responsive to the market. Zoning decisions should support desegregation and allow low-income communities to gain access to efficient transit and other shared resources.

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

I would like to implement land use agreements, so that we can have shared plots of land designated for non-profit affordable housing. This would require a collaboration between affordable housing non-profit advocates and City Council,  so that we can translate plans into lasting zoning law. I am committed to engaging the members of the district from the start, so affordable housing reflects the needs of the community and the desires of those who would hopefully inhabit the housing built.

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 30% Percentage of Unhoused New Yorkers  30%

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

I would make sure to utilize a participatory budgeting model to engage all residents of District-15 before land use decisions are determined. While I haven’t encountered any land use fights in my work thus far, I believe the Bronx is a transit desert due to a lack of investment and outdated zoning that keeps more up to date bus and train lines from being constructed. We can create zoning surrounding rail stations that supports a diversity of usage, so that our community can thrive.

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)

I would fight for legislation that encourages accountability, by strengthening landlord enforcement and oversight mechanisms. I also would work with tenants to organize in their buildings, and fight to  guarantee tenants representation in housing court. Furthermore, I would partner with other council members who have rejected donations from real-estate developers, creating a coalition dedicated to landlord accountability.

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? Yes

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

I would not oppose the construction of homeless shelters, because there are unfortunately a rising number of unhoused people in my district. However, I believe our top priority should be getting unhoused people into affordable housing, which is absolutely possible, and allows for longer term stability for those impacted.

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

32a. If no, why not?

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 would partner with tenant activists who have spent years working with the RGB to have the biggest possible influence. I also would use my organizing skills to engage the neighborhood on this issue, and hopefully heighten the pressure on the RBG to lower rents. The dire economic circumstances brought on by this pandemic I believe has opened a window for more progressive, justice-minded, thinking– and I believe with sustained engagement it would be possible to influence the board effectively.

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