New York City is in the grip of an escalating housing crisis whose ill effects are apparent throughout Astoria. What was once a neighborhood where working-class families and new immigrants could afford to lay down roots, build community, and raise their families has transformed into an investment portfolio for opaque LLCs and unscrupulous landlords. Investors are hoarding properties, maximizing rents, and reaping windfall profits while our communities suffer from evictions, foreclosures, and displacement that grows worse every year. Since 2010, median rents in Astoria have increased by 30 percent to $2,200 per month - a startling figure totally beyond the reach of most New Yorkers. Just last year, there were 4,043 evictions in Queens, representing 20% of all evictions across the city.
This isn’t just a housing crisis - it’s a class war. And we can’t fight it with the same tools that establishment Democrats have relied on for decades to little effect. We need to stop treating housing as a commodity from which private developers can extract exorbitant profits, and start guaranteeing it as a human right for all.
For us, the path to decommodifying housing involves three interrelated projects, which comprise our housing agenda.
First, we need ironclad protections for people who access housing via the private market. That means:
- ‘Good cause eviction’ legislation that establishes universal, statewide rent control and extends tenant protections to renters in one-to-five unit buildings, including the right to a lease renewal.
- Eliminate rent hikes due to Major Capital Improvements and Individual Apartment Improvements.
- Close the loophole that enables landlords to combine two vacant rent-stabilized apartments into one market-rate apartment.
- Expand capacity and funding of DHCR and Housing Court.
- Hold banks accountable for lending to predatory landlords by including harassment and displacement metrics, as well as analysis of landlords’ capitalization ratio, in the NYS Community Reinvestment Act review and impose penalties for noncompliance.
- Create cease and desist zones in ‘hot markets’ to protect homeowners from aggressive harassment by real estate investors.
- Create a public, searchable database of all LLCs in NYS.
Second, we need to bring housing on the private market under community ownership. That means:
- Establish and capitalize community land trusts to fund their operations and acquisitions of property in order to fight aggressive land speculation.
- Alter the NYS foreclosure auction process to give community land trusts operating in the county a right of first refusal to a foreclosed property.
- Establish a right of first refusal for tenants to buy out their landlords when their buildings go up for sale.
Third, we need to limit the influence of private actors in future housing development. That means:
- Eliminate the 485-a and 421-a tax abatements that cost taxpayers billions every year and encourage luxury development at the expense of affordable housing.
- Reinvest these savings into the preservation and repair of existing public housing, with at least $2 billion dedicated to NYCHA annually.
- Generate new revenue streams to fund the development of at least 600,000 new units of social housing over the next 10 years.
- Create a state-chartered public bank in New York City that will invest in equitable housing projects instead of luxury condos.