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Mayor’s housing plan earns tacit praise

Stephon Johnson | 5/8/2014, 1:16 p.m.
Bill de Blasio progress

On Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled an 10-year affordable housing plan to help lessen the financial burden on poor and working-class citizens.

During a news conference in Brooklyn, de Blasio explained why the plan needed to be instituted as soon as possible.

“We understand that crying need,” said de Blasio. “I’ve heard it from my fellow New Yorkers so many times, so urgently, so passionately. And so we said clearly from the beginning, we’re going to address this on the biggest scale possible. It is the biggest affordable housing program ever put underway because that’s what’s needed for this time. It is faster and more ambitious than anything we’ve seen before because the crisis is greater than anything we’ve seen before.

“And we’re going to use every tool of this city government, in ways more aggressive than ever attempted in the past, to protect the interests of our people and make sure that every kind of person can live in New York City,” de Blasio continued.

Under the plan, the affordability programs will serve middle- to low-income households (under $25,150 for a family of four). The de Blasio administration said that the plan will create 194,000 construction jobs and close to 7,100 permanent jobs. Also, the city will “undertake ground-up neighborhood planning to identify corridors and communities with opportunities for more housing [both affordable and market], and coordinate greater density with necessary infrastructure.”

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said affordable housing, especially in New York City, is one of the top economic issues that needs to be addressed immediately.

“The lack of affordable housing is a crisis that affects New York’s ability to continue to be a home and pathway to a thriving and productive middle class,” said Mark-Viverito in a statement. “Mayor de Blasio’s plan to protect or defend 200,000 units of affordable housing will begin to ensure that New York remains affordable to the middle class while also helping low-income New Yorkers, for whom the affordability crisis has had a devastating impact.”

Other organizations are praising the plan but also know that more things need to be done. In a letter to their followers, Partnership for the Homeless remained optimistic about the de Blasio plan but wants to proceed with caution.

“Indeed, we’re hopeful that Mayor de Blasio’s plan begins to allow us, as a city, to eschew a long-standing reliance on emergency shelter as the primary approach to confronting homelessness,” read the letter. “That his housing plan promotes a fundamental shift in strategy, away from crisis management, to one in which permanent housing isn’t simply an end goal but rather an immediate first step on the road to well-being and stability.

“Numerous research studies have shown that rapidly securing housing for people who have become homeless is more effective in helping them achieve long-term stability than their enduring a long shelter stay and a progression of services before being deemed ‘housing–ready.’”

New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams also praised de Blasio’s plan but said that more needed to be done in order to accommodate New Yorkers who have a hard time affording current rents.

“Although the mayor plans to create and preserve 200,000 units over 10 years, we know that more than 200,000 units are needed to truly address the city’s housing crisis,” said Williams in a statement. “This will require political will and commitment to get it done. Further, there are several things I hope to see the mayor expound on.

Williams also said that repealing the 1971 Urstadt Law (which took away New York City’s power to pass local rent laws that are more stringent than the state’s) would “play a prominent role in the mayor’s push for action in Albany, as it prevents New York City from strengthening rent regulation laws that are meant to protect the nearly 2.5 million tenants who live in rent-stabilized or rent-controlled apartments. Urstadt’s repeal would help stop the permanent loss of more than 150,000 rent-regulated units every year.”