Tenants Political Action Committee
277 Broadway, Suite 608
New York, New York 10007
Candidate Screening Questionnaire
Candidates for Governor 2014
Candidate Name: Howie Hawkins
Candidate email address: [email protected]
Name of campaign committee: Hawkins for Governor
Mailing address of campaign committee: P.O. Box 562, Syracuse NY 13205
Campaign web site: www.howiehawkins.org
Campaign contact person: Ursula Rozum
Contact person phone numbers: (315) 414-7720
Contact person email address: [email protected]
Campaign consultant(s), if any:
Running mate for lieutenant governor, if any: Brian Jones
Contact info for running mate, if different: [email protected]
1. THE FIGHT OVER STRENGTHENING THE RENT LAWS IN 2015
The state rent and eviction protection laws, and the laws governing coop and condo conversion, are set to expire on June 15, 2015 and must be renewed by the state legislature and governor. The real estate lobby will work to weaken the rent laws again as the price of another renewal, or at least to prevent enactment of meaningful pro-tenant reforms. Tenant advocates will work to strengthen these laws.
The central issue is what to do about the Vacancy Destabilization amendments that were inserted into the state and city rent laws by Governor George Pataki and State Legislature in 1993 and 1997, and by the New York City Council in 1994. Some politicians have pointed to the raising of the deregulation threshold in 2011 from $2,000 to $2,500 monthly rent as a great victory for tenants, but in fact this was a cosmetic change that has had little actual effect.
There are two reasons for this: (1) even if the threshold is raised again in 2015, the big landlords will spend the extra funds on refurbishing the vacant apartment to reach the new threshold, and they would be foolish not to do so, as a one-time expense buys them permanent release from rent and eviction restrictions; and (2) dishonest landlords will continue to do what they do now: instead of spending the funds needed to reach the deregulation threshold, they simply stop registering the apartment annually with the state housing agency, wait four years and hope that the tenant does not file an overcharge complaint. Because of the lack of enforcement, most dishonest landlords get away with this illegal deregulation.
In addition, raising the threshold will do nothing to discourage the kind of predatory behavior we have witnessed for the last several years, with speculators paying commercially unreasonable prices for rent regulated buildings and then engaging in aggressive actions to force tenants to give up their homes. As long as there is a possibility of deregulation by getting tenants to move, these sharks will continue to disrupt the lives of New Yorkers who rent and reduce our supply of affordable rental housing.
In concise terms, the position of the tenant movement in New York State is that Vacancy Deregulation must be repealed outright, and that raising the deregulation threshold again would not stop the loss of our shrinking supply of rent-regulated housing, nor stop any of the abuses we now see in the market as a result of the weakening of the rent laws.
If you are elected Governor of New York State:
- Will you support full repeal of Vacancy Destabilization (S1167)? And will you oppose leaving Vacancy Destabilization in place while raising the threshold above $2,500 monthly rent? YES
- Will you support re-regulation of the 300,000 to 400,000 apartments that have been lost to Vacancy Destabilization in New York City and the three suburban counties during the last twenty years? YES
- If you support re-regulation of the units lost to Vacancy Destabilization, will you support a rent rollback to 2011? YES
- Will you support legislation to make rent increases for building-wide improvements (Major Capital Improvements) temporary surcharges (S1493)? YES
- Will you support legislation to place all former Mitchell-Lama and Section 8 buildings under rent stabilization if the landlord takes them out of government supervision (S1169)? YES
- Will you support closing of the “preferential rent” loophole (S1775)? YES
- Will you support repeal of the 1971 Urstadt Law, thereby restoring full home rule powers over rents and evictions to New York City (S1492)? YES
- Will you include these reforms to the rent laws in your Executive Budget in 2015? YES
2. PUBLIC HOUSING
Public housing throughout New York State is facing a crisis because of federal disinvestment.
Given the importance of saving public housing, will you support allocation of one billion dollars per year of state funds in capital grants for public housing over the next four years? YES
3. SECTION 8
The state shortchanges Section 8 providers in downstate counties by paying less then the shelter allowance for Section 8 recipients on public assistance. State Section 8 providers are suffering from massive federal disinvestment. If the state paid the shelter allowance to downstate counties, more Section 8 vouchers would be generated.
Will you support paying the shelter allowance for all section 8 voucher holders on public assistance? YES
4. NEIGHBORHOOD & RURAL PRESERVATION COMPANIES
These vital state programs provide administrative and planning grants to some 250 non-profit community organizations engaged in various neighborhood preservation activities. The statutes authorize annual grants of up to $97,500 per group, but the closest the groups ever got to that was several years ago when they received about $91,000. For some years the state budget has frozen the annual grant at about $60,000 per group, creating financial difficulties for them and hampering their programmatic work.
Will you support funding for NPCs and RPCs sufficient to give them $97,500 per year over the next four years? YES
5. NEW YORK/NEW YORK SUPPORTIVE HOUSING
More than 150 advocacy organizations have called for a new state-city agreement to create and fully fund services for 30,000 units of permanent supportive housing in New York City over the next ten years. Homeless families, homeless young adults, victims of domestic violence, chronically ill New Yorkers, and persons exiting institutions would be priority residents.
Will you enter into meaningful negotiations with New York City to create and fund this program? YES
6. “POOR DOORS”
Developers have been allowed to create separate entrances for below-market apartments they have agreed to include in market-rate developments in return for benefits from the City of New York, in the form of increased density and/or tax breaks. In addition developers have been able to deny access to amenities such as gyms or swimming pools to the below-market tenants. A related problem is landlords who in buildings with deregulated apartments, who have denied access to such amenities to rent-regulated tenants, reserving them for market-rate tenants.
Will you support legislation to bar separate but unequal treatment of below-market and rent-regulated tenants, specifically barring separate entrances and requiring owners to make building amenities available to all residents? YES
Additional comments from candidate, if desired:
New Public Housing:
I favor a major new program of public housing to address the crises of affordable housing and New York State's shameful status as having the most segregated schools (UCLA Civil Rights Project) and housing (Brookings Institution segregation indices) in the nation. This segregation is a double segregation by class as well as race and is a root cause of poor educational achievement in hypersegregated disadvantaged communities, which feeds the school-to-prison pipeline to a criminal justice system with race and class disparities that match the segregation in schools and housing,
Unlike the old projects that concentrated poverty and segregation in big projects, the new projects would be built in the cities and the suburbs. They would be humanly scaled, scattered site, mixed income and ethnicity, clean energy positive (e.g., solar panels, energy efficient, ground-source heating and cooling) and carbon negative (e.g., carbon sequestering building materials, living roofs). It would be a jobs program, an affordable housing program, and a clean energy program as well as a desegregation program.
Progressive Tax Reform:
To pay for housing, education, and other public programs, I want to restore the more progressive tax and revenue sharing structure New York State had in the 1970s. It would give 95% of New Yorkers a tax cut while raising over 20% more revenues, about $30 billion a year. The more progressive personal income tax would raise $8 billion more from the top 5% and especially top 1%, while lowering rates for the bottom 95% (Fiscal Policy Institute). Eliminating corporate welfare that New York State did not have in the 1970s would save $7 billion a year (ALIGN). Keeping instead of rebating the Stock Transfer Tax would have yielded $12 billion to $16 billion in recent years (Better Choice Budget Campaign, NYS Tax Reform and Fairness Commission). Restoring state revenue sharing with local governments to 8% of state revenues (it is now less than 1%) would enable local communities to fully fund their municipal services and still cut our highest-in-the-nation property taxes substantially and permanently. Property taxes are an important factor in housing affordability and particularly burdensome for upstate family farmers as well as for tenants (who cover the tax in rent) and homeowners with low to moderate wages or retirement benefits.