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NYC’s affordable housing agenda isn’t doing enough for the city’s neediest: report

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Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office says the current plan doesn’t address the housing needs hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers

Max Touhey

New York City’s current affordable housing plan isn’t doing enough for the city’s neediest families, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer argues in a newly released report titled NYC For All: The Housing We Need.

Late last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled an updated version of his existing affordable housing agenda: to create and preserve 300,000 units of affordable housing by 2026. Stringer argues however that this plan does not meet the needs of thousands of extremely low-income New Yorkers.

Stringer’s report identifies 580,000 households across the city that pay more than half their income toward rent. About 90 percent of these households earn less than $47,000/year for a family of three. Stringer argues that only 25 percent of the city’s affordable housing program addresses the needs of these New Yorkers.

“We are in the middle of a serious housing affordability crisis in this city and we cannot let a $2 million condo become the cost of entry,” said Stringer, in a statement. “This crisis is having the greatest effect on the people who are the backbone of New York City – like home health aides, childcare workers, taxi drivers, and so many others – and we’re failing them.”

The report calls for a shift in focus in the city’s affordable housing plan. Stringer notes that the city is building just as many units for middle-income families making $155,000/year as extremely low-income families making $28,000/year. The report calls for a greater focus on the latter, and very low-income families—those making less than $46,950/year.

Other suggestions in the report include repurposing the remaining 85,000 units in the first iteration of the Housing New York plan for extremely low and very low-income New Yorkers; upping the number of units set aside for homeless families in new buildings from five percent to 15 percent; and increasing the capital budget for new construction by $375 million annually.

As to how all of this will be funded, Stringer’s most prominent suggestion is eliminating the Mortgage Recording Tax. This tax applies to those who borrow to purchase or refinance homes. Stringer argues that this unfairly targets middle-class New Yorkers who have to pay this tax in addition to the Real Property Transfer Tax (RPTT). In all cash deals—which Stringer says has largely been the case for Manhattan condos and townhouses—buyers only have to pay the RPTT.

Stringer has instead proposed a single RPTT that rises as the price of the property increases. Stringer estimates that this single tax will raise $400 million annually and help fund deeply affordable housing. Stringer also reiterated his call to turn vacant, city-owned land into affordable housing.

“Our housing crisis is forcing hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers to make impossible sacrifices just to keep a roof over their heads,” said Jonathan Westin, the executive director of the nonprofit New York Communities for Change, in a statement. “The City’s current housing plan has failed low-income New Yorkers and is nothing more than a gentrification plan.”

Jane Meyer, a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio, issued the following statement to Curbed:

“Our city is in the grips of an affordability crisis, and the Mayor is confronting it head on. From creating affordable housing at record levels, to rent freezes and providing free lawyers for tenants facing eviction, this administration is fighting this crisis with every available tool – not just the housing plan being looked at by the Comptroller.”