Land Use and Housing Justice for All
“As a teenager, the Great Recession left me homeless. I was arrested for having nowhere to go. It proved to me that the interests of working class people are never the priority. But I’ve seen what happens when working people come together. When we fight, we win.”
READ TIME - Abstract: 2 min | Full: 10 min
Platform Abstract: Large developers, landlords, and banks control New York City politics, leading to a private market-dominated, profit-oriented system of housing. As a result, working class New Yorkers across the city live in consistently unaffordable, low-quality housing. Meanwhile, the municipal government and private market work together to trigger gentrification across the city through upzoning and evictions of long-time tenants. Our district is 76% renters and home to Ravenswood, Woodside Houses and Queensbridge Houses (the largest public housing development in the nation) making it a target for gentrification and exploitation.
Jonathan envisions a city in which every resident can afford to live in quality housing within their own thriving community. In order to secure affordable, quality housing for all New Yorkers, we need to abandon the private market-oriented vision of housing — and move to a tenant-controlled, social housing* model. As your city councillor, Jonathan will put an end to housing market manipulation which inflates rents by advocating for taxes on vacant units. Jonathan will invest in repairing and expanding NYCHA, limited equity co-ops, community land trusts and other forms of democratic, social housing. He will fight back against giveaways for luxury developers and city-sponsored gentrification projects like Sunnyside Yards that increase taxes on owner-occupants. Jonathan will stand with tenants organizing against landlords and expand programs which protect tenants rights.
*: “Social housing” refers to permanently affordable, off-the-market housing, which usually takes the form of public housing, community land trusts or limited-equity co-ops. Here's a quick clip explaining the basics (starts at 7:10).
1. Protect and expand social housing
The first step towards moving away from a profit-oriented approach to housing in New York City is to preserve existing sources of social housing. Therefore, our public housing stock must remain public. Jonathan will always oppose efforts to privatize public housing, including the Blueprint for Change, RAD/PACT, Infill development and all plans to sell NYCHA air rights. In addition, Jonathan will always stand strong and fight for residents of limited equity co-ops, community land trusts and rent-controlled units.
The second step is to build new units of social housing. Jonathan believes that instead of spurring gentrification by giving away public land to private luxury developers, New York should create a plan to utilize public land for the public good, including building new social housing where appropriate. Jonathan also supports efforts to establish mixed-income social housing to reduce class segregation and financially stabilize public housing developments by charging rent according to income. The chart below demonstrates the basic idea behind financially stable, mixed-income social housing projects.
As this graphic demonstrates, housing projects which are home to tenants with a range of income levels can “cross-subsidize” rents, meaning that higher-income residents pay more in order to support lower rents for lower-income residents. This practice is a more financially stable manner of running public housing, and it helps integrate communities without gentrifying them, reducing the negative consequences of concentrated poverty.
Jonathan is also in favor of exploring democratically-controlled financing for social housing, such as a public bank, to further distance housing from the for-profit finance industry. In the current climate of historically low municipal bond rates, public financing is even more feasible.
The third step is to convert for-profit housing into social housing. Jonathan supports abolishing the tax lien sale which enables banks and large landlords to acquire tax foreclosed homes on the cheap. Jonathan believes that the city should instead utilize tax liens (or other strategies, potentially including eminent domain) to acquire neglected property and then convert it to public housing, limited equity co-ops or distribute to community land trusts. This strategy is especially urgent given that many apartment buildings are expected to enter the tax lien process due to COVID-19 related economic hardship. Recognizing an opportunity, large investment firms have set aside hundreds of billions of dollars to buy up distressed properties. Jonathan knows we should do everything in our power to preempt the investment firms and convert these distressed units into stable, permanently affordable social housing. The city should also create a NYC Land Bank to manage vacant properties and pass a robustly funded Community Opportunity to Purchase Act (COPA), which would allow community land trusts and non-profit housing organizations a right of first refusal and financing when buildings go up for sale — further pushing back against gentrification and putting power back where it belongs: with the community.
2. End homelessness
The greed and recklessness which caused the 2008 Great Recession forced Jonathan into homelessness. He knows firsthand the struggles of New York City’s homeless population, which reached an all time high in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Jonathan believes in treating homelessness like the moral and public health issue that it is. He will take a Housing First approach to homelessness, and will fight to expedite and expand the building of Permanently Supportive Housing (PSH) units for homeless individuals. PSH units must include wrap-around services, such as mental health & addiction counseling, job services and healthcare. The City Council should also look into acquiring distressed hotels to be converted into safe havens for the unsheltered homeless population. Jonathan supports divesting from the NYPD’s policing of the homeless and instead directing those funds towards housing. Jonathan supports the passage of Intro 146 to raise the maximum rent allowance for housing vouchers — as well as measures such as an anti-warehousing tax which will bring down rents and public expenditures on vouchers. He also supports the NYC Coalition’s plan to protect and expand the city’s Right to Counsel program. Since its implementation in 2017, the program has helped a staggering 84% of its participants avoid eviction and lowered overall eviction rates by 29%.
3. Ease the tax burden on owner-occupants
The city’s property tax system is broken. Low and moderate-income owner-occupants are, paradoxically, often taxed at higher rates than wealthy property owners. Jonathan supports the People’s Plan NYC platform to reform the municipal property tax system. Jonathan also opposes luxury developments like Sunnyside Yards which would increase the tax burden for low and moderate-income owner-occupants.
4. Improve housing quality
The NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA) houses close to 600,000 mostly low-income New Yorkers, making it the largest provider of rental housing in the city. However, years of underfunding have created a near $40 billion capital repair backlog, leaving many aging buildings in poor condition. Rather than continuing to utilize privatization schemes like Blueprint for Change and RAD/PACT which line the pockets of developers, Jonathan will always fight to keep public housing public. He supports a robust Green New Deal for NYCHA to repair and decarbonize aging public housing infrastructure, which disproportionately affects low-income, Black and Latinx communities. In addition, Jonathan supports redirecting NYCHA’s yearly $70 million policing budget to community-based safety programs. On the private rental market, Jonathan believes the city needs to crack down on negligent landlords and fully utilize programs like the Third Party Transfer Program and 7A to transfer deteriorating properties to responsible non-profit management.
5. Resist gentrification
Jonathan cut his organizing teeth as an anti-gentrification activist, pushing back against upzoning and the disastrous city-sponsored Amazon HQ2 plan.
As your city councillor, he will work tirelessly to protect existing Queens residents and small businesses from displacement. Jonathan supports passing a commercial rent stabilization bill to protect small businesses and worker cooperatives. He opposes Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) zoning policies which flood working class neighborhoods with market rate housing in exchange for a paltry amount of “affordable” housing. Jonathan will always advocate for community control of land, by supporting community land trusts, advocating for a well-funded Community Opportunity to Purchase Act (COPA) (explained in more detail in section 1), resisting giveaways of public land to private developers and promoting community-controlled land use decisions. Jonathan also supports the NYC Coalition’s plan to protect and expand the city’s Right to Counsel program, so that all tenants are able to fight back in court against landlords.
6. Democratize housing
Jonathan has always fought for tenants to control their buildings, including his recent work to renew the resident council at Queensbridge Houses. He will always stand strong with tenants fighting to unionize and build other forms of tenant power in privately owned housing. In addition, Jonathan supports the work of organizations like CAAAV to democratize the management of NYCHA. This includes: the full enforcement of public housing residents’ Section 9 right to campus-wide Resident Councils and larger Resident Management Corporations which would help eliminate the unresponsive, complex bureaucracy that exists within NYCHA; implementing resident-led participatory budgeting processes for NYCHA’s budget; and working to fix the issues with Section 3 funding being improperly funneled away from resident control.
7. End rampant speculation and city support of luxury developers
Real estate developers along with their banks and investors treat housing as a product to be bought and sold on the open market without regard for the instability, unaffordability and gentrification they cause. Through donations to government officials and by obtaining important government positions, the real estate and finance industry direct the city’s cold, calculated, for-profit housing policy. Jonathan believes that we need to end the reign of finance and private real estate interests. Jonathan will advocate at the state level for taxes on speculation, like a warehousing (vacancy) tax — which incentivizes landlords and investors to fill vacant units — and flipping taxes — which taxes investors who “flip” buildings for profit without making any major improvements.
Map of vacant apartments in NYC and surrounding areas. Each dot represents a census tract with at least 100 vacant units.
Public land should be used for the public good, but far too often the city awards public land and low-income housing subsidies to for-profit developers. Between 2014 and 2018, 75% of low-income housing contracts went to private developers.
As this graphic shows, the vast majority of city-sponsored low-income housing subsidies are awarded to for-profit developers.
Jonathan supports passing legislation which would limit allocation of public land to community land trusts and other providers of permanently affordable, non-profit housing. Jonathan will always oppose the giveaways of public land to private developers, which often leads to gentrification in working class neighborhoods.
8. Advocate for state-level policy
Jonathan plans on using his platform to advocate for state-level changes which will support his vision for housing in New York City. These include: creating a Pied-a-terre tax, to deter people from purchasing a secondary residence when thousands of people do not have one; ending the 421-a property tax exemption, which amounts to billions of dollars in giveaways to luxury developers; ending the 485-a subsidization for the renovation of commercial buildings; supporting the Invest in Our NY Act to tax the rich; and protecting existing rent control laws. Jonathan also supports cancelling rent and mortgage payments for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis to protect vulnerable tenants and homeowners. Jonathan will advocate for taxes on speculation, like a warehousing (vacancy) tax — which incentivizes landlords and investors to fill vacant units — and flipping taxes — which taxes investors who “flip” buildings for profit without making any major improvements.