Congressman Charlie Rangel rallies with others oppose to luxury housing in East Harlem (142666)
Credit: Contributed

Rep. Charles B. Rangel recently held a rally on the steps of City Hall in New York City to demand a moratorium on luxury housing.

Rangel, also called for the extension of the Emergency Tenant Protection Act, which is set to expire June 15. Joining the congressman to demand affordable housing were Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, Community Service Society CEO David Jones, Councilman Jumaane D. Williams, deputy leader and chair of the Housing and Buildings Committee, Councilwoman Inez Dickens and President Hazel Dukes of the NAACP New York State Conference.

“Building more luxury housing is morally wrong and nonsensical at a time when the stock of affordable housing has plummeted and incomes have stagnated or declined for many New Yorkers,” Rangel said. “New York City’s economy must be bolstered by better paying jobs and investment in our infrastructure, our children’s education and adequate housing for our struggling families.”

The Emergency Tenant Protection Act will expire unless action is taken by the state Legislature. The law provides rights and protections for 2.5 million tenants living in rent-stabilized apartments citywide.

Renewing the rent stabilization law as it is will not be enough because of how it has been amended over the years.

The 421-a Real Property Tax Exemption Program is also set to expire. This tax program was created in 1971 to help spur real estate development in New York City, a need that no longer exists. Yet it continues to provide tax breaks to developers constructing new buildings in the city and costs hundreds of millions in tax dollars. In 2014 alone, the program cost New York City $1.1 billion in tax revenue.

“A 421-a program worth keeping will end ‘double-dipping,’ require ‘affordable’ apartments actually be affordable to residents of the communities where they’re built and require that new affordable units be made permanently affordable,” said Brewer. “Taxpayers can’t afford the status quo.”

According to “The Growing Gap: New York City’s Housing Affordability Challenge,” a 2014 report issued by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, housing in New York City has become less affordable since 2000 as the median apartment rent rose by 75 percent while real incomes declined. The 75 percent increase is 31 percentage points higher than the rest of the U.S. Housing affordability decreased for renters in every income group during this period, with the harshest consequences for poor and working New Yorkers earning less than $40,000 a year.

“Everyone should have access to quality affordable housing,” Rangel said. “It saddens me when I hear renters having to spending one-third of their income on just rent alone. Throughout our community, renters are faced with higher rents, fewer services and neglected units. With critical laws dealing with housing about to expire, it’s now more important than ever to deal with this problem head-on and stop focusing resources on building luxury apartments for the wealthy.”