Op-ed | NYC can act on affordable housing as Albany balks on greater reform

Apartments in New York
The campaign comes at a time when the city is facing its worst housing affordability crisis in more than a half-century, with few affordable rental apartments available to tenants.
Photo via Getty Images

In New York City, our affordable housing crisis is multifaceted – we have people who are struggling to maintain the homes they own, become homeowners, and even just pay their monthly rent with large increases looming every coming year.

The long-awaited State Budget took meaningful strides to address these issues, but New Yorkers need our leaders to do more. At the City level, we believe Mayor Adams’ recently released Executive Budget didn’t include needed funding for key housing programs. 

As proud Bronx elected officials, we are fighting to fill the gaps and ensure the City remains affordable for low-income and working-class New Yorkers. To improve the livelihoods of residents and keep our communities strong, we call on the Mayor to fully fund the Homes Now plan in the Council’s Preliminary Budget Response with an additional $2.5 billion over the next five years to preserve and build permanently affordable rental and homeownership opportunities.

The most powerful tool the City has to address the housing crisis is the ability to finance housing that remains affordable now and for generations.

Housing costs are a key driver of unaffordability for Bronx residents. Tenants in the Bronx face the highest levels of eviction filings, lowest homeownership rates, and over a third of the borough’s residents are considered rent-burdened. Citywide, the statistics are similar: the median city income would need to double to afford the median rent, evictions nearly tripled in 2023 compared to 2022, and affordable apartments have a vacancy rate of just one percent.

Unfortunately, the problem is only getting worse with New York City losing over half of its affordable apartments between 2002 and 2021. As a result, our working and middle-class neighbors who have been here for generations are struggling to remain in their homes and leaving the city for good.

Spearheaded by the Council’s Progressive Caucus, the Homes Now Plan calls for capital funding to Neighborhood Pillars and Open Door Homeownership, two programs under the Department of Housing Preservation and Development which, combined, would create new homeownership opportunities for an additional 3,125 families and preserve and rehabilitate rent-stabilized units for nearly 8,930 households over the next 5 years.

This includes 1,400 rent-stabilized units specifically set aside for homeless New Yorkers to help our City contend with its record-high shelter population. As rent stabilization protections for New Yorkers remain precarious, this plan would ensure the city continues to have needed affordable rental options, and grant New Yorkers traditionally excluded from homeownership opportunities a path towards them. 

We know that affordable housing is part of what helps make New York City great. That’s why New York City has a long legacy of similar affordable housing programs: public housing, Mitchell Lama, community development programs, and limited-equity co-ops. These opportunities have allowed generations of New Yorkers to call our city home and we want to replicate that success for decades to come.

The City Council stands behind the Homes Now Plan, as a key priority in our vision to address the affordable housing crisis. As we prepare to negotiate the budget with the Mayor, we stand firm as the Majority Leader and as Chair of the Committee on Housing and Buildings in support of Homes Now.

New York City’s families deserve to be protected from being priced out of their homes; they deserve the protections afforded by dependable housing and long-standing communities now and for generations to come. We have to act now to support renters, homeowners, and aspiring homeowners alike to allow them to continue living, working and playing here.

Amanda Farias is City Council majority leader; Pierina Sanchez serves as Housing and Buildings Committee chair. Both represent the Bronx.