‘Homes Now’ and in the future: New coalition seeks $2 billion in affordable housing investment around NYC

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A coalition of left-wing pols and advocates launched to demand that $2 billion be included in the coming city budget to build affordable housing over the next four years. Monday, March 11, 2023.
Photo by Ethan Stark-Miller

A progressive coalition launched Monday will advocate for including $2 billion in the coming city budget to build much-needed affordable housing in the Big Apple over the next four years.

The group — calling itself “Homes Now, Homes for Generations” — will push for making the sizable capital commitment to build or repair 10,000 units in the Fiscal Year 2025 city budget, which must be adopted by a June 30 deadline. The alliance includes members of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus, city Comptroller Brad Lander and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and reps for several housing nonprofit and advocacy groups.

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. According to the city’s most recent vacancy survey just 1.4% of units across the five boroughs are available to rent in 2023. For those renting below $2,400-a-month, less than 1% were open.

During a City Hall press conference on March 11, City Council Housing Chair Pierina Sanchez (D-Bronx) said the lack of available affordable apartments is leading to the “wholesale replacement” of low-income and working class New Yorkers by those making six-figure salaries. With the right investment, however, she believes things could turn around.

“Cities like New York City should be cities of opportunity,” Sanchez said. “They should be a place where you can come from any part of the world and you may not have the easiest path, but you have a path. You have a path to make it in the United States of America, starting right here. And with investments, like we are announcing today … We’re coming together to say that there are concrete solutions.”

Specifically, the coalition wants those dollars to go toward expanding two programs run by the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) aimed at low to moderate income home ownership and the preservation of affordable units: Open Door and Neighborhood Pillars.

Open Door funds the construction of co-ops, condominiums and one to three family homes that are affordable to low and middle income households, according to HPD. Neighborhood Pillars, meanwhile, offer low-interest loans and tax exemptions for nonprofits to purchase and refurbish both unregulated and rent-controlled buildings in disrepair for the same income levels.

The proposed allocation would allow 3,500 additional families to own homes and preserve nearly 7,000 rent-stabilized units, according to the coalition.

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

Lander said the investment in the Open Door program would be the biggest investment in affordable cooperative housing since the Mitchell-Lama program that operated a half century ago.

“With the Homes Now, Homes for Generations campaign, we can invest in and create the next generation of affordable co-ops for families to get that first rung on the homeownership scale to have some generational wealth, especially for working class families and communities of color,” the comptroller said.

Speaking in his capacity as the city’s chief bean counter, Lander said there is more than enough money in the capital budget to meet the group’s demands.

“I can tell you as the comptroller, we issue the municipal finance, we keep a close eye on the capital budget, we can’t afford to do this. And we can’t afford not to,” Lander said.

The public advocate called the coalition’s request a “rounding error” in the city budget — something he wants City Hall to recognize.

“I want to make sure the administration and the mayor and everyone come to the table and say ‘yes, I’m serious about safety, I’m serious about providing housing for people who need it,’” Williams said. “And $2 billion over four years is something that I can agree with. Because we need it.”

Meanwhile, Mayor Adams has sought to boost housing productions for all income levels by pushing forward his “City of Yes for Housing Opportunity” plan, which would loosen numerous zoning restrictions.

The mayor has also pushed for Albany lawmakers to enact a new tax credit for building affordable housing, allow for higher density construction and make it possible to convert office buildings into housing.

When asked about the coalition’s request, City Hall responded, we’ll review the proposal and continue to work with the Council through the budget process.” The mayor’s office also insisted it has already invested $24 billion in affordable housing construction.