URBAN AGENDA: Mayor de Blasio and the “Affordability Crisis”

David R. Jones | 2/23/2017, 10:39 a.m.
Mayor Bill de Blasio deserves a full measure of credit for proposing that the City provide a right to counsel ...

The Mayor should also work to close the disparity between the $10 billion committed for “affordable housing” and the $1.3 billion earmarked for the preservation of the city’s public housing -- the primary source of housing for the City’s lowest-income residents. The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) desperately needs infrastructure repair. With future federal housing assistance dubious at best and NYCHA facing $17 billion backlog in capital improvements, the mayor must up the ante on preserving this critical housing resource for low-income residents. Simply put, NYCHA needs infrastructure investment on par with what the city is spending to build and preserve affordable housing.

The solutions mentioned above are not the complete remedy for the City’s affordability crisis, to be sure. But undertaking them would show New Yorkers that this mayor is willing to take bold steps that address immediate needs.

Federal retrenchment historically has triggered Pavlovian reflexes of progressive politicians. The instinctive thing to do is avoid promising new initiatives that add or reshuffle spending priorities.

But this is the time to stand tall. Cities and states like New York should be leading the charge for what is in our power to do to improve the economic prospects of low-income residents whose interests and needs don’t appear to be priorities of the current White House.

To quote President Kennedy once more, “the true democracy, living and growing and inspiring, puts its faith in the people -- faith that the people will not simply elect men who will represent their views ably and faithfully, but also elect men who will exercise their conscientious judgment.” Mr. Mayor, it is time to lead by example.

David R. Jones, Esq., is President and CEO of the Community Service Society of New York (CSS), the leading voice on behalf of low-income New Yorkers for more than 170 years. The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer. The Urban Agenda is available on CSS’s website: www.cssny.org.