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April 28th, 2021

Andrew Yang Commits to Affordable Housing Revolution, Upending the Status Quo & Ending Special Interest Vetocracy

**RELEASE** April 28th, 2021

Andrew Yang to Produce the Most Affordable Housing Since the Koch Era: Over 250,000 Units Across All 5 Boroughs Bold Reforms Including Eliminating Member Deference, Parking Minimums, and Other Outdated Laws and Regulations

New York, NYIn an address today to New York Law School, Andrew Yang outlined his vision for charting a new, independent course in how the City pursues affordable housing development after years of failing to meet the housing needs of New Yorkers.

The math is simple: New York needs to build more affordable housing, and proposals so far have been too timid to deal with the scope of the problem. Everyday New Yorkers have paid for decades of political infighting and inaction, and special interest groups setting the terms on housing.  Enough is enough. As Mayor, Andrew will enact big-picture reforms and seize a historic opportunity to build housing to benefit the City as a whole, including:

  • Producing 250,000 units of affordable housing across all five boroughs in eight years
  • Working with the next Speaker to eliminate member deference
  • Rolling back mandatory parking minimums
  • Legalizing SROs and ADUs
  • Implementing long-term changes to ULURP to speed up approvals 
  • Transitioning hotels and commercial space into affordable housing right away
  • Rezoning SoHo

Stressing his willingness to break from the politics as usual that have stymied affordable housing, Andrew Yang noted, “Making affordable housing widely available will require tackling some of the thorniest issues getting in the way of achieving this essential goal. And the changes will hopefully be permanent, reaping benefits even beyond my administration.  “It’s going to take a mayor who is not grown from our bureaucratic machine who has no ties to special interests to achieve this. And it’s going to take a mayor with the courage to challenge the status quo to actually see this through. This is exactly the type of independent, forward-thinking mayor I plan to be.” Said Michelle Kuppersmith, Board Member of Open New York, a group that advocates for more housing and lower rents:  “We’re encouraged to see a mayoral candidate adopt a bold vision to build desperately needed housing and make it a front and center part of his campaign, and hope more candidates will follow suit. New York can't recover if people can't afford to live here. A rezoning of a neighborhood to build denser, new types of housing runs into a bureaucratic gauntlet that favors the loudest voices in a room, not necessarily the most sensible. Years of work would often end with inertia. Andrew Yang’s support for ending parking minimums requires significant courage. People in this city love their cars and it’s definitely a tough call to make for affordability and it’s a fairly bold stance for a candidate to come out and say we need housing for people rather than cars.” Said Jamie Rubin, former NYS Housing Commissioner and Director of State Operations: "Andrew’s housing plan is a perfect mix of ambitious goals and the technical 'fixes' that are going to be needed to get them done fast. He’s clearly spent a lot of time with people from every part of the housing sector and identified the barriers to production of new housing in this city." The full text of Andrew’ speech is below: Hello everyone! Thank you so much for tuning in today.   Thank you to Dean Crowell and all of New York Law School for hosting such a wonderful series and giving me a platform to speak with all of you. I’m so happy to be joining you from Seward Park Housing Coop. Before I begin  I want to take a moment to  acknowledge Jean Kim. As a survivor, she took a brave step this morning. It's never easy to tell your story - I know from supporting my wife Evelyn to tell hers. Thank you Jean for your courage in sharing your experience today. 25 years ago I moved to New York City to go to law school. I got a lot out of the education I received upon arriving here. But admittedly, it’s more fun now to be on the other side of the virtual lectern. Not just to lecture on housing law, but to share how we plan to dramatically reshape how this city builds homes for New Yorkers. -- When I first launched my campaign for mayor, I stated very clearly - “We need to make New York City the anti-poverty city.” People in power often talk about this - how we want to help our poorest communities - or fight poverty. But the city has recently gone in the wrong direction in terms of income and wealth inequality. And that is what I want to talk to you about today. How do we actually make New York City the anti-poverty city? How do we make our city a place where we support and lift-up our citizens in the most need? How can we be a model for the rest of the country and world to not just talk about fighting poverty, but actually doing the work that makes poverty extinct in our city? And frankly, you can’t talk about being the anti-poverty city without talking about housing. -- So today I want to outline a bold vision for far more affordable housing in New York City. I am introducing my four billion dollar plan to produce 250,000 units of affordable housing over the next eight years across every neighborhood in all five boroughs.  This will be the most since Ed Koch, who had the most successful affordable housing policy in generations. In many ways, the task ahead is much tougher than what Mayor Koch faced. As the first mayor after the fiscal crisis of the mid-70s, Ed Koch benefited from lower land prices and a giant store of City owned properties.   Making affordable housing widely available will require tackling some of the thorniest issues getting in the way of achieving this essential goal.  And the changes will hopefully be permanent, reaping benefits even beyond my administration. It’s going to take a mayor who is not grown from our bureaucratic machine who has no ties to special interests to achieve this.  And it’s going to take a mayor with the courage to challenge the status quo to actually see this through. This is exactly the type of independent, forward-thinking mayor I plan to be. -- Many of you know that even before the pandemic, the housing situation was getting dire here. From 2010 to 2019, the city had among the lowest rates of new housing construction of any city in the country. Lower in relative terms than Los Angeles and even San Francisco. 2,600 New Yorkers were leaving every week. The city was no longer a tenable value proposition.  And this was true whether you were a new immigrant hoping to pursue the American Dream -- or even a white-collar tech or financial professional hoping to build a family here instead of a nearby suburb. For the poorest New Yorkers who stayed, social mobility remained largely out of reach. About a quarter of New York renters who make up to $50,000 a year spend half their income just on rent. This has hit our city’s kids the hardest. 110,000 children - one in ten - experience homelessness. Unsure of where they’ll sleep any given night. As a public school and special needs parent, I am overwhelmed by the struggle these families face every moment of every day. This is particularly true with kids having to learn remotely from often unstable environments and temporary homes. And during the pandemic, the city also sustained a massive loss of life in part because of our housing crisis. A study just found that that the city had the highest proportion - 59% - of homes not equipped for quarantine.  As Joe Salvo, the city’s own chief demographer said, the overcrowding of apartments - not density - likely contributed to the extremely high death toll here. — Despite decades of seemingly ambitious housing plans by every mayor since Koch, it is clear plans have fallen short. A rezoning of a neighborhood to build denser, new types of housing runs into a bureaucratic gauntlet that favors the loudest voices in a room, not necessarily the most sensible. Years of work would often end with inertia.  The needs of the country’s largest city have been drowned out by narrow interests most concerned with maintaining the status quo - and their own status.  A growing economy with jobs for New Yorkers has been made less possible. Sometimes even housing that is labeled affordable has been out of reach for many. Our affordable housing development and preservation system is effectively a “vetocracy.” Dysfunction and suboptimal outcomes are the norm. And frankly, I cannot blame any one person or group for opposing any one project or immediately being distrustful of the process. The system breeds skepticism.  Instead, innovation should be embraced. We need to reorient not just our laws, but our governing culture to meet the housing needs of New Yorkers here today and those wanting to grow a family here tomorrow. Ultimately, my housing plan is designed around action, abundance and hope. -- So I want to share the two overarching parts of my affordable housing plan with you today - structural reforms to allow for increased housing construction, and a spending and resource commitment I will deliver on as mayor. -- First and foremost, I intend on spending $4 billion annually on affordable housing.  This investment would 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.  These units will primarily be for people and families who are struggling the most to get by. This money will be used in part to convert outdated and unused hotels and office buildings into affordable and supportive housing.  I have already promised to create 25,000 units through such conversions by the end of my first term.  In fact, since my proposal, President Biden and Majority Leader Schumer secured federal funding for such conversions.  Second, I will actually leverage city-owned land. The city of New York owns thousands of parcels, much of which can be used for housing. The city may have less land than under Koch, but we should still borrow from his playbook when we can. For years, reports have made clear that there are shovel ready projects on such land that aren’t moving forward. That will change next year. -- But as important as spending is, we need to get to the root cause of why our city isn't producing affordable housing more efficiently. If elected, I plan on working with the Council to eliminate Member Deference.  Right now, 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 filibuster many Democrats - myself 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 land use decisions 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.   So if and when I win, I will move the Council away from member deference.  We don’t have time to allow our city to be slowed down by a voluntary custom - our city is in crisis and we need to move efficiently, quickly, and with the will of the people. -- To that end, we need to also make long-term changes to ULURP. My focus will be on speeding up approvals for 100% affordable housing projects. 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. -- I should note that even before we work through these changes, our city can set an important precedent now by rezoning SoHo. We can’t waffle or backtrack as some appear to be doing. I hope Mayor de Blasio stands firm on this plan. 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. -- Other bold changes must also be made. I want to end mandatory parking minimums.  We require many new buildings to create a minimum number of parking spaces and it causes unnecessary red-tape, delays, and increased prices on new housing developments.  The city has recently nibbled around the edges in this regard, but it’s not enough. Buffalo did this well, and New York City should follow their lead.  The timing for such an initiative makes sense. Thanks to the work of Secretary Buttigieg, congestion pricing will totally reshape driving habits and transportation in this city. We should lean into this dramatic change. For instance, in neighborhoods such as Williamsburg that have great mass transit, not many car owners, and are very walkable - Open Streets is a huge success there! - many buildings are still required to be built with parking. We need to change that. This space in buildings can be used for so many better purposes. Housing chief among them. -- No doubt, more housing is inextricably tied to better mass transit options. So we need to get busways and bus rapid transit built in our city’s transit deserts right away. That way, we can upzone such neighborhoods so the density is there to take advantage of such new and fast bus routes that provide superior commuting alternatives to cars. -- And there are other arcane restrictions we must do away with as well. New York thrives when singles, couples, families, young and old can find a home here.  So our laws have to be flexible and reflect how people choose to live their lives and with each other. That’s why I plan to bring back single room occupancy buildings or SROs. These were initially outlawed because of an unfair stigmatization. Such concerns are now totally outdated and we should embrace ideas like co-living. Similarly, we should legalize accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, so that basement apartments - and converted garages for detached homes - are legal. In California, ADU laws have been substantially relaxed, leading to a burst of tens of thousands of new housing units. This may also alleviate multigenerational families overcrowding of an apartment - which as I mentioned earlier - may have contributed to the pandemic’s intensity here.  Families should of course have the option of living together, but not be forced to do so because of expense. -- What I shared today is just the start. This isn’t the full extent of my platform or all of what the next mayor must do.  We did not touch on my plans to spend $40 billion - with the help of Congress - to raise NYCHA housing up to humane standards. But I believe the elements I’ve laid out today provide the appropriate path for a progressive, modern, and growing city. It’s a plan bigger than any mayor has proposed in over 30 years! The city needs critical reforms, a fresh perspective, and a mayor not bound by the battles or interests of old.  A break from the past. A hopeful future. And this is why I’m running for mayor. This is the mindset I will bring to City Hall. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but this city is capable of extraordinary things, and achieving greatness. So let’s go New York! Let’s build our city better than ever! Thank you.


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