Putting the ‘social’ back in housing policy on city council plate


A package of seven bills and resolutions paving the way for a paradigm shift in social housing policy in New York City came before city council’s housing and buildings committee Feb. 23.

Housing and buildings chair Pierina Sanchez worked a boisterous crowd alongside New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and members of city council’s progressive caucus at a rally on the steps of City Hall ahead of the committee hearing.

“In the face of a housing crisis where 53 percent of New Yorkers are rent-burdened, where eviction rates continue to soar, and where the most vulnerable New Yorkers remain at risk of losing their homes, the call for a new way to produce and govern housing is critical to turning the tide on this crisis,” Sanchez said.

“Approaches from our governor and mayor prioritize reducing red tape and enabling market-rate production to stem the housing crisis, but this is not enough.

“We need a ‘yes and’ approach. Yes to increasing production and making it easier to build, the “and,” however, is missing, and this is where social housing comes in.”

The package includes Int. 714 sponsored by Counciwoman Gale Brewer, which establishes a New York City Land Bank authorized to acquire underutilized parcels scattered throughout the city for rehabilitation and transfer to community land trusts that have sprung up in every borough since being codified in the city charter.

Int. 637 — the Public Disposition bill — sponsored by Councilman Lincoln Restler ensures that public land is prioritized for non-profit developers and community land trusts.

Int. 196 — the Community Opportunity to Purchase Act — sponsored by Councilwoman Carlina Rivera — gives qualified entities a first opportunity to purchase certain residential buildings when offered for sale.

The social housing coalition is also aiming to build support for state legislation complementing and strengthening social housing in New York City, including the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, which gives tenants the opportunity to purchase the building they live in if their landlord decides to sell it.

Others include the Housing Access Voucher Program, and Good Cause Eviction, which provide immediate protections to tenants at risk of eviction due to rent hikes or loss of income.

“New market-rate development alone will not solve the affordability crisis,” Lander said at the rally.

“With New York City’s median asking rents nearing $3,500 a month, new supply will do little to help homeless families move into affordable homes,” he added.

“Developing a robust social housing sector in New York City, in part through the passage of the bills being heard today, is integral to the future of our city.

“Social housing centers permanent affordability, community control, and social equity.”

housing, Pierina Sanchez, New York City, Gale Bewer, affordable housing