Build More Deeply Affordable Housing Without Delay
In spite of their best efforts to make New York City more affordable, the current Administration focused affordable housing production only to meet targeted goals of unit creation. This has resulted in a preference to build at higher Area Median Incomes (AMIs) and studio units, which are not appropriate for meeting the needs of our lowest-income families. A Yang Administration would take a comprehensive approach that focuses real resources on deep affordability, units suitable for families not only singles and couples, and in a diverse array of communities-- wealthy and poor-- to ensure we build to meet the needs of all New Yorkers, rather than build to meet arbitrary unit goals.
Andrew Yang’s affordable housing plan combines both short and long-term solutions to address New York City’s need for permanently affordable housing for New Yorkers, particularly those at 0 - 80% AMI. Beyond this, Yang is committing $4 billion to produce 250,000 units of affordable housing over the next eight years across every neighborhood in all five boroughs.
1. Invest $4 billion annually on affordable housing.
In order to achieve the supply and affordability our city needs, we need a bold commitment to funding this housing production. Andrew Yang commits to spending $4 billion annually, which will allow us to build and preserve 30,000 affordable apartments per year, which would average more than the highest totals during the de Blasio administration. This money will be used in part to convert outdated and unused hotels and office buildings into affordable and supportive housing, described below.
2. Launch New Housing New York 25 (“NHNY25”), creating at least 25,000 new deeply affordable units, inclusive of supportive housing, using existing hotels that will not reopen: Hotels can be converted into housing both economically and quickly. No other vehicle can achieve results fast enough to demonstrate change early within a next administration. New York City has a total of 127,810 hotel rooms with a pre-pandemic average occupancy rate of 81.7% across all five boroughs. The City estimates that New York will not see a recovery in the hotel industry until at least 2025. Many hotels will continue to remain empty or underutilized, making them ripe for immediate redevelopment into permanently affordable housing. A Yang Administration will provide regulatory relief and forgivable grants to eligible hotel properties entering into agreements with New York City for long term residential uses at affordable rents. This new effort, New Housing New York, will allow for the conversion of some buildings, mainly hotels, and obsolete office buildings, throughout the City into tens of thousands of new units of housing. By providing larger forgivable grants to owners or developers who agree to convert buildings into supportive housing and deeply affordable housing targeted toward people in the greatest need, this housing can take advantage of a once in a generation opportunity to create affordable housing for the New Yorkers who need it most. A Yang administration will create a minimum of 5,000 new units of housing in the first 18 months of the Administration, scaling up to 25,000 by 2025. A Yang administration will leverage funding in the Biden $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, which is dedicated for use in buying and converting hotels and motels.
3. Ease Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADUs) Restrictions: An estimated 114,000 people live in basements in New York City - many of these tenants are undocumented, low-income and living in potentially dangerous or unsafe homes. Andrew Yang will support state initiatives to allow for more ADU construction and City code changes to ease the legalization of basement apartments and will pick up where the current Administration left off on the East New York basement legalization pilot program.
4. Make it Easier For New Yorkers to Find a Rent-Stabilized Apartment: Rent Stabilization requires landlords to renew leases while capping the allowable increases in rent. A Yang administration recognizes that access to New York’s supply of Rent-Stabilized apartments provides housing stability for millions of New Yorkers, yet this supply is dwindling. The Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 made necessary changes to the rent laws to preserve the approximately 1 million Rent-Stabilized apartments in New York City. Under a Yang administration, the City would go further and connect New Yorker’s with Rent-Stabilized apartments in their neighborhoods.
The Yang administration would leverage the NYCApp to create a StreetEasy/Zillow for Rent-Stabilized units so landlords can list upcoming vacancies in Rent-Stabilized units for free. Prospective tenants can provide their rental criteria (“2 bedroom in East New York for under $1,500”) and their qualifications on their “profile,” including income, connections to the community, why they would make an ideal long-term tenant, etc. The NYCApp would immediately send prospective tenants available vacant Rent-Stabilized apartments that meet their requirements while also sending landlord’s a list of eligible tenants. The NYCApp would facilitate an easy and immediate application process. Users, both landlords and tenants, would be able to access providers of innovative housing products, such as security deposit alternatives and rent guaranty products to ease the application and lower the cost of finding rent stabilized housing.
5. Provide incentives for landlords to voluntarily put units back into rent regulation: A Yang administration will prioritize City benefits for landlords who agree to put units back into the Rent Stabilization. For example, federal HOME Investment Partnership Program funds administered by the New York State Housing Trust Fund Corporation (HTFC) for housing renovation and construction and that is allocated through City agencies will be prioritized for projects in which the landlord agrees to provide a rent-stabilized lease to the next tenant.
6. Increase the City’s commitment to capital funding for 100% affordable housing developments: Andrew Yang is in full support of United4Housing’s platform for housing and our next Mayor’s reinvestment. A Yang administration will maintain and increase the City’s pre-pandemic $5.9 billion capital commitment to affordable housing. The current administration cut $1.2B of that amount, and restored some. All the cuts should be restored and the City’s commitment should be increased. A Yang administration also supports programs to increase the capacity of affordable housing developers to develop larger 100% affordable projects. A Yang administration will ensure that the City’s capital funding commitment should target and subsidize projects with deep affordability (units for households earning less than 40% AMI).
7. Embrace comprehensive planning as the framework for land use and zoning in New York City: New York currently has no long term plan for land use and zoning and as a result, faces a lack of coordination across City agencies and deep inefficiencies in multi-agency policymaking. As a result of a lack of proactive planning with a citywide view, communities are forced into reactionary and defensive positions. The current land use review process fails to address the needs of communities suffering from decades of disinvestment and neglect. At the same time, we lack a coordinated vision to support the equitable growth we need in order to solve our City’s housing crisis. A Yang administration will execute the creation of a Citywide Long Term Plan once every 10 years with substantial community input.
8. Eliminate the practice of “Member Deference”: Currently, when the city pursues a rezoning of a neighborhood or a major project, not only must the plan survive the legal process known as ULURP, but it also has to be approved by that local Council Member in an informal process known as member deference. This process is reminiscent of the fillibuster many Democrats- Andrew included- have wanted to dismantle in the U.S. Senate. Actually, it’s even worse in that it’s completely based in tradition and doesn’t require a vote to be abolished. Massive policy changes are handed over to a single person. It’s undemocratic. And it actually puts each City Council member in a very tough spot where they become a lightning rod for any project that is considered in their district. Andrew Yang will work with the Council to move away from member deference.
9. Expand support for meaningful community engagement in the land use process: Andrew Yang’s focus will be on speeding up approvals for 100% affordable housing projects through reforming ULURP. The city should have a system where voices of the underserved are given equal weight to the loudest special interests who dominate meetings most New Yorkers don’t even know are happening. It’s counterproductive to waste months in one hearing after another, waiting for advisory votes, when we often know what the right thing to do is. Community Boards and community based organizations often lack the resources to evaluate or meaningfully participate in land use actions affecting their community, oftentimes until its too late. A Yang administration will require experts from the Department of City Planning, or city funded non-profit organizations, to assist CBOs in evaluating Environmental Assessment Statements (“EAS”) for, Determinations of Significance, and the Environmental Impact Statement for land use actions affecting their communities. A Yang administration will also allow CBOs and Community Boards to more effectively propose their own ideas for City Owned land.
10. Use City-owned land to expand affordable housing: The City has almost 3,000 parcels of land or residential structures listed as having “no use.” All no use residential structured should be surveyed and, if suitable, quickly transformed into supportive housing by the City’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC). A Yang administration will survey all “no-use vacant land” and determine which parcels are suitable for residential structures and then place modular or other prefabricated dwelling units on that land, or enlist a City-contracted non-profit housing organization to do so. A Yang administration will require City agencies to inventory their City owned parcels currently used for vehicle parking or construction material storage that have residential or commercial zoning. Those under-utilized parcels should be the site of deeply affordable housing.
11. Move away from the de Blasio administration’s preference for rezoning Black and Brown neighborhoods toward rezoning transit-rich, higher-income neighborhoods. Under the de Blasio administration’s signature housing policy, Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, rezonings were mostly pursued in low-income communities of color. This not only placed the burden for the housing stock on these communities and perpetuated the risks of gentrification, but the math also did not work out. We need to create density in communities where market rate units can actually subsidize the MIH units in those developments. The city can set an important precedent now by rezoning SoHo. It’s significant that not a single unit of affordable housing has been built in SoHo in the past eight years. We can’t only focus rezonings in Black and brown neighborhoods or only build affordable housing in certain communities.
12. Expand Community Land Trusts in partnership with community based organizations across the five boroughs: A Community Land Trust (CLT) is a nonprofit entity that stewards the housing/buildings on its property by retaining ownership of the land while ensuring the buildings remain affordable. It's an alternative to profit seeking private ownership that puts the needs of the tenants first. Many organizations and grassroots efforts are interested in CLT expansion, and the city should serve as an eager partner. A Yang administration will create an office within HPD charged with supporting, staffing, maintaining and growing the number of CLTs in New York City, and allocate funding for staff to run CLTs and organize efforts so they are successful.
13. Make co-living an official part of NYC’s housing stock: As much as 25% of households in NYC are adults living with roommates (“coliving”). City codes discourage the use of apartments by groups of roommates by limiting the number of unrelated individuals who can be in a “family” to three and requiring those three individuals live in a “common household.” These arcane laws were designed to prevent “blight” but remain on the books and artificially constrain housing supply and increasing rents. Andrew Yang will amend City codes to increase the number of unrelated individuals who can share dwelling in a multi-family (3 or more units) from 3 to 6 and remove the requirements that they occupy as a “family.” This would not make changes to the life and safety codes, for example minimum room sizes, egress and light requirements would all remain the same. More importantly, coliving has the opportunity to free up other housing units that are more suitable for families.By legalizing coliving, a Yang administration will support construction and rehabilitation of sites for artist enclaves, and with unit set asides for freelancers, creatives and performers.
14. Encourage the development of microunits (aka “tiny homes” or Small Efficiency Dwelling Units, also known as “SEDUs”). In 2017, the City reduced the minimum square footage of a dwelling to 200 square feet making it possible for the construction of microunits. However, the Dwelling Unit Factor (the number of dwellings permitted on a lot depending on the allowable FAR) discourage microunits because each micro unit would count as a dwelling. Andrew Yang will reform the Dwelling Unit Factor where a building contains microunits so that smaller units have a lesser impact on the lots Dwelling Unit Factor and encourage the use of modular construction for micro units.
15. Remove parking minimums. We require new buildings to create a minimum number of parking spaces and it causes unnecessary red-tape, delays, and increased prices on new housing developments. Buffalo did this well, and New York City should follow their plan. This space in buildings can be used for so many better purposes. Housing chief among them.
16. Revitalizing NYCHA by Creating a New York City Public Housing Preservation Trust: Currently, NYCHA is funded with subsidies provided by Section 9 of the U.S. Housing Act of 1937. Through Section 9, NYCHA only receives about $500 million in capital grant funding annually-- an amount that is grossly insufficient to meet NYCHA’s capital needs. By transferring the ownership of select NYCHA buildings into a new public trust, called the New York City Public Housing Preservation Trust, NYCHA buildings would be eligible for project based funding under Section 8 of the U.S. Housing Act of 1937 (known as “Tenant Protection Vouchers (“TPV”)). NYCHA’s “A Blueprint for Change'' estimates that TPVs will provide almost $650 per tenant per month in additional funding -- meaning that 25,000 TPVs would provide $3.5 billion in additional federal funding every year. Because TPVs are a guaranteed source of ongoing income, the new NYC Public Housing Preservation Trust would have the ability to sell bonds backed by the TPV payments, providing billions in immediate new funding for desperately needed capital projects. The NYC Public Housing Preservation Trust also has the ability to fast track needed capital projects because it would not be inhibited by the NYCHA inefficiencies and bureaucracy that has stymied needed repairs for too long.
Andrew Yang will work with State leaders to ensure that (1) the NYC Public Housing Preservation Trust is a 100% publicly owned; (2) the Public Housing Preservation Trust has a streamlined procurement process that allows projects to move forward quickly and efficiently; (3) residents maintain all the rights they enjoy under the current Section 8 funding, such as rent caps based on income, renewal rights, succession rights, and the right to organize into local resident associations; (4) the transfer of NYCHA buildings to the NYC Public Housing Preservation Trust would not displace current NYCHA residents or interfere in the NYCHA waitlist; and (5) NYCHA residents have substantial representation on the board of the NYC Public Housing Preservation Trust. Andrew Yang supports Senate Bill 6999A and Assembly Bill A7805, introduced by Senator Brian Kavanagh and Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, the Chairs, respectively, of the Senate and Assembly Housing Committees, that would create the NYC Public Housing Trust.
17. Provide a Pathway for Home Ownership for Renters: Many New York City renters live in their communities for decades but, as non-owners, often find themselves unable to enjoy any appreciation in the value of their homes. There is already a well established system to convert rental buildings into cooperative corporations (“co-ops”) but co-op conversions of middle income buildings have become rare in recent years. Andrew Yang believes that the City should offer desirable mortgage financing and technical assistance to tenant associations to allow them to form co-ops and purchase their building from their landlords. Eligible tenant associations would have access to lower interest City backed mortgages. As owners, residents of converted buildings would be invested in their communities, maintain their property, and realize the real estate appreciation that can create generational wealth. Any co-op conversion using City backed mortgages would need to agree to a non-displacement plan so current renters who don’t want to purchase their units are protected. In addition, coops would need to demonstrate that they could be self-sustaining with the ability to pay their mortgage, maintenance costs and property taxes without City subsidies.