Hawkins Supports Strong Local Rent Control, Expanded Public Housing, Tenants’ Rights

Hawkins Supports Strong Local Rent Control, Expanded Public Housing, Tenants’ Rights

For immediate release: August 24, 2018

Hawkins Supports Strong Local Rent Control, Expanded Public Housing, Tenants’ Rights

Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor, outlined his plan today to resolve the housing crisis in New York City and across the state, including returning control of rent laws to the city and massively increasing investment in public housing.

“Homelessness has increased 36% since Cuomo came into office and the city lost 75,000 units of rent stabilized housing. As HUD Secretary, Cuomo demolished more public housing units than he built with subsidies to private developers for affordable units. He’s governor for his real estate donors, not millions of New York tenants,” Hawkins said.

“Under the de Blasio administration, rent hikes, combined with developer-friendly rezoning and harassment by landlords, are driving the working class out of Manhattan and much of Brooklyn and other parts of NYC,” said Hawkins.

“Since skyrocketing rents and displacement of working class tenants is what we get from self-styled progressive Democrats like Cuomo and de Blasio, it’s time for an alternative – and it’s not the Republicans,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins noted that unaffordable housing is a statewide problem. Over 50% of New York renters pay more than the federal affordability standard of 30% of household income. More than 25% pay more than 50% of their income in rent. Buffalo has the third highest rate of rent inflation in the nation. As bad as NYC is, it doesn’t make the top 25 U.S. cities for rent inflation.

Hawkins said he would push to repeal the Urstadt law, which puts oversight of rent regulation in the hands of the state legislature. He would return the power to local governments to decide on rent control. He noted that while Cynthia Nixon calls for universal rent control, she relies on the state legislature rather than home rule to enact it, leaving the fate of NYC rent regulations in the hands of upstate legislators.

“Rent control is needed to protect renters in the short term. But rent control is not enough. If there is not a big increase in the supply of affordable rental units, rent control will only lead to increased rents in unregulated units in a sellers’ market,” said Hawkins.

Hawkins wants to eliminate the loopholes landlords use to deregulate units or raise rents on regulated units, including vacancy decontrol, vacancy bonus, preferential rent, and major capital improvements. He would restore rent stabilization for units that escaped regulation through these loopholes and restore regulation for Mitchell-Lama and project-based Section 8 buildings that have left government supervision. He supports a statewide rent affordability “circuit breaker” through an income-based refundable tax credit to cap rents at 30% of household income.

Instead of costly subsidies to private developers (e.g., 421a), Hawkins wants a massive investment in public housing “to fix the housing we have and expand the housing we need. New public housing will be a program for living-wage jobs, desegregation, and clean energy as well as affordable housing.”

NYCHA needs $32 billion over the next five years to fix problems with lead, mold, elevators, boilers, roofs, and other repairs. Hawkins said Cynthia Nixon’s proposal to increase state spending for public housing by $1 billion a year “is not up to the job.”

The new public housing proposed by Hawkins rejects the old model of concentrating poor people and minorities in segregated, isolated large-scale projects. The new public housing would be high quality, human scale, scatter site, mixed income and powered by wind and solar electricity and heated and cooled by electric-power heat pumps instead of oil or gas boilers. He said they should be of such high quality that any community would welcome them as a positive asset to their community.

The Green Party candidate pointed out that it is cheaper to directly build public housing than to publicly subsidize affordable units in private developments. A big expansion of public housing will lower demand and drive rents down in the private market as well.

Many Western European cities provide up to 60% of units as public housing. In Germany, for example, rents are 10-15% of income. But in the U.S., public housing accounts for less than 1%. The federal government has abandoned building public housing since the 1970s.

According to Hawkins, mixed-income public housing will be more economically self-reliant due to higher rents from middle and upper income tenants. Mixed-income public housing will also help reduce the race and class segregation that in New York State is the highest in the nation.

Hawkins would build 20,000 units of supportive housing across the state that combines permanent housing with on-site services for people with a history of substance abuse, and/or who have mental and physical health needs. He would build public housing to house the 90,000 homeless across the state. He would also accelerate the funding of the 5-year, $20 billion program Cuomo announced in 2016 to create or preserve over 100,000 affordable and 6,000 supportive housing units, most of which has not been funded to date.

Hawkins also outlined a number of measures to expand tenants’ rights. He charged that the City government under Mayor De Blasio too often helps landlords evict tenants from rent regulated buildings. He supports a Just Cause Eviction Law: legislation to protect tenants from evictions without justifiable cause, and a statewide right of tenants to receive publicly-provided counsel in housing courts.  He would increase funding to the NYS Division of Housing and Community Renewal to support the enforcement of tenants’ rights and housing codes.

Hawkins was highly critical of de Blasio’s so-called affordable housing programs, noting that it is driving working people out of their neighborhoods. De Blasio’s rezonings are top down, benefit developers, and create rent inflation. De Blasio’s inclusionary zoning isn’t inclusive since it uses the metropolitan Average Median Income instead of neighborhood median income to define affordability. Hawkins said he supports community control of zoning, including the right to establish height limits on buildings. The proliferation of high-rise apartments is creating environmental problems, including sewage back-ups and overflows and restricted access to light and air on the streets.

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