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ANHD’s Response to Mayor Eric Adams’ Housing Our Neighbors: A Blueprint for Housing and Homelessness

June 15, 2022

We are thrilled that after years of ANHD-led advocacy, the Adams Administration has finally moved New York City away from the problematic affordable housing unit count goals of past housing plans. That metric led to a focus on so-called affordable housing solutions that simply chased after numbers instead of prioritizing the needs of struggling New Yorkers. Instead, we should be focusing on the outcomes our communities need – outcomes like ending homelessness, preventing displacement, eliminating rent burdens, and ensuring safe, healthy housing for all. In order to accomplish those goals, we need to look holistically at the full housing landscape in NYC, and we applaud the Administration for incorporating the full spectrum of housing, from homelessness to NYCHA to tenant protections to homeownership in the Housing Our Neighbors blueprint.

Many of the priorities in the plan reflect years of advocacy by ANHD and partners, and we applaud their inclusion. At the same time, we expect and will continue to advocate for tangible impacts for our communities and we await detailed policies and objectives and the necessary funding to realize those outcomes. Housing Our Neighbors must lead to actual major reductions in homelessness, improved housing quality in NYCHA, and stability and opportunity for tenants and homeowners.

The Administration has yet to lay out clear and transparent policies, metrics, and timelines.  Even with the Housing Our Neighbors plan’s new framing, there must still be transparency and accountability. This plan will need to be supplemented with detailed policy solutions and robust funding to achieve the goal of a safe, healthy, and affordable home for every New Yorker. We, community-based organizations, community members, and neighborhoods, must be able to clearly assess and evaluate where the Mayor is and is not meeting his housing commitments our neighborhoods needs and deserve. ANHD looks forward to working with this Administration where possible and will hold them accountable to meet the housing needs and priorities of our most marginalized community members.

Homelessness

We commend Housing Our Neighbors’ inclusion of all five shelter systems to streamline our homeless set-aside unit referral process so we can move homeless New Yorkers into permanent housing faster, as homeless advocates and non-profit developers of affordable and supportive housing have pushed for. We also support the goal of delivering 15,000 supportive housing units two years ahead of schedule, but to end homelessness we need concrete and measurable goals to end homelessness backed by deep investments in housing development and preservation.

Land use, public land, and housing development

ANHD supports using targeted zoning, land use, and development policies to create more affordable housing throughout the city, particularly in neighborhoods that are not producing enough today. These changes include supporting the creation of Accessory Dwelling Units, converting vacant hotels to affordable and supportive housing, and rezoning under-utilized government-owned land for deeply affordable housing. However, zoning and policy changes to promote more and more varied residential development must be rooted in the principles of land use equity to ensure a more just distribution of density and investments, and to empower communities that have not had a say in planning their futures. Any citywide zoning change to allow greater square footage for affordable housing must be crafted with a laser focus on developing 100% deeply affordable housing. Any development of public land must maximize public benefit and reflect local needs and should be implemented by non-profit, mission-driven developers and community-based organizations. Additionally, public investments in quality-of-life improvements in areas of the city that have not received key amenities and services must not be traded for new, primarily market-rate density.

We also support a comprehensive approach to housing development that includes diverse and innovative housing typologies and models such as single-room occupancies, shared housing, shared equity cooperatives and community land trusts. We are also happy to see a commitment to lowering construction costs through regulatory reforms, innovative new building techniques, and streamlined agency processes. However, streamlining and innovation alone is not sufficient – these measures must be accompanied by robust investments in deeply affordable housing preservation and development, including staff capacity at city agencies.

We are excited to see a commitment to revamping the Neighborhood Pillars Program with a downpayment assistance fund to support the acquisition of properties by non-profits and M/WBEs, including ANHD members, to redevelop and preserve as affordable housing. To be successful, any revamp of Neighborhood Pillars needs to be accompanied by a serious funding commitment.

We are also encouraged to see the blueprint’s prioritization of M/WBE and BIPOC-led non-profit mission-driven developers. This stated priority must be accompanied by clear metrics, such as a percentage of HPD capital commitments.

Tenant rights

The housing plan rightly draws the connection between housing and health. We applaud the focus on proactive enforcement to ensure that tenants have safe, healthy homes, and the commitment to bring proactive harassment cases in housing court to protect tenants’ rights. Far too often, tenants live with health and safety violations for years, navigating inspections and housing court dates while their apartments continue to deteriorate. The Administration must work with community organizations and tenant leaders to identify the gaps and flaws in the city’s inspection and enforcement models, and should increase and enforce penalties to landlords who endanger their tenants health and well-being with repeated violations.

ANHD members have been participants in the Partners in Preservation program in the neighborhoods where it was piloted, and we will be glad to see it expanded. But far more resources are needed to fund tenant organizing and legal assistance, increase staffing at HPD and other agencies, and aggressively pursue preservation options including transfer of ownership to non-profit, mission-driven developers.

Homeownership

We applaud the Mayor’s plan for recognizing the importance of homeownership for low and moderate-income and BIPOC New Yorkers, including doubling down payment assistance funding and expanding HomeFix. At the same time, we are concerned about a continuation of race-neutral policies to promote homeownership that do not explicitly address racism, redlining, and discrimination. New York City needs to create targeted programs for people of color to access and maintain homeownership, create a more equitable tax structure, and expand discrimination enforcement to test for fair lending violations and appraisal bias. We also need a more concerted focus on housing counseling, anti-displacement, and foreclosure prevention for the same populations.
 

ANHD will continue to work with our members, coalitions, and partners to review the Housing Our Neighbors plan in detail. Sign up for our email list or follow us on Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn to stay appraised of all of our housing analysis and advocacy.

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