We must ensure that housing remains available and affordable for all of New York City’s low-and middle-income residents.

 

Overview

As New York City mounts its economic and cultural comeback, we must ensure that housing remains available and affordable for all of New York City’s low-and middle-income residents. At the same time, we must maximize public-private partnerships to allow the real estate industry to continue developing new and innovative housing solutions. In turn, new and affordable housing developments will improve quality of living and lower the cost of living for our residents. At the same time, we must create more affordable government housing programs, like Mitchell-Lamas and mini-homes, while protecting NYCHA tenants. As New York City Mayor, I will deliver real, affordable housing solutions so every New Yorkers has access to affordable housing options.

Since 2013, the de Blasio Administration has failed to expand housing for low-and-middle income residents because onerous zoning regulations and misallocated public funding have hindered new developments. During this time, homelessness in our City has reached its highest level since the 1930s,[1] as low- and middle-income residents are being forced out of their housing units and left with inadequate or non-existent affordable housing options.

Since the 1980s, New York City has relied on the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program[2], among other federal tax programs, to create affordable housing units. However, these federal programs alone have been–and will continue to be–inadequate to meet the post-pandemic housing demand that will soon hit New York City. While NYC should continue to leverage these federal resources, we must also fully maximize our state and city-wide resources to expand and develop new affordable housing. Through state- and city-based tax incentive programs and zoning reforms, New York City can exponentially expand housing availability and affordability, while stimulating our real estate sector. In the coming months and years, New York City will have the greatest economic and cultural comeback in recent history, and we must be prepared to meet the housing demand.

To ensure that housing remains available and affordable for all, I am proposing a plan that will maximize public-private partnerships and deliver housing expansion and development in New York City. My plan will eliminate onerous regulations, deliver zoning reform, and create new tax incentives and programs to promote the development of affordable housing for low and middle-income residents.

Reform Zoning Laws to Allow for New Housing Development

Originally established in the 1960s during an economic downturn, New York City’s current zoning laws[3] are outdated and incompatible with New York City’s rapid growth today. To remedy this issue, my zoning reform plan will maintain the integrity and community appeal of our local neighborhoods, while allowing for smart, innovative expansion to open up more affordable housing for middle-and-low-income families. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, many storefronts, office buildings, and retail strips have been vacated. Given the global trend toward e-commerce and remote work, many of these retail spaces will never return to their prior occupied state. Accordingly, we must work to repurposes these vacant lots into new housing and apartment units. Unfortunately, onerous zoning laws and lengthy permitting processes delay zoning and building development for years. In turn, this hinders economic growth and recovery. To ensure that New York City immediately expands its affordable housing options, I am calling for the creation of a streamlined permitting process, a One-Stop-Shop for permitting processes and regulatory compliance, and time limitations on city agencies (to expedite permit and licensing application response times).

New York City’s zoning laws currently preclude the development of new housing in certain zones designated as “manufacturing zones.” Some of these areas include Gowanus, Brooklyn and Soho/Noho, Manhattan.[4] Long Island City also maintains many “manufacturing” zones that prevent the development of new housing. Despite the highly attractive development opportunities in these areas, the City cannot expand housing in these areas due to “manufacturing” zoning restrictions. We must reform our zoning laws to allow housing development in these high traffic and valuable areas. It is no secret that New York City’s manufacturing industry has been on the decline for decades. We must get with the times, recognize this reality, and meet the current and future housing demand of our low-and-middle income residents. Rezoning these areas will serve as a boon to New York City’s economy and produce new streams of property tax revenue as well.

New York City must also amend its Zoning Resolution[5] and its attendant state regulations to allow for the development of larger residential housing units. Based on outdated heuristics and arbitrary zoning considerations, current regulations cap the size of residential housing developments, while commercial spaces enjoy far greater size and expansion rights. To meet New York City’s future housing demand and to provide more affordable housing, New York City must eliminate the zoning restrictions on residential building development.

Expand the Mitchell-Lama Housing Program

To continue offering and expanding affordable housing options for moderate and middle-income residents, I also fully support funding and expanding New York City’s Mitchell-Lama program. The Mitchell-Lama program provides affordable rental and cooperative housing to moderate- and middle-income New York City residents. Founded in 1955 by New York State Senator MacNeil Mitchell and Assemblyman Alfred Lama, this program operates on both the city and state-wide level.[6][7] The program was introduced in response to NYC residents fleeing to the suburbs in the 1950s, as well declining revenues and neighborhood quality in NYC.[8] The purpose of the program was to “encourage the building of moderate-income housing, to keep more middle-class families within the state’s cities, and to help stabilize city neighborhoods.”[9] Mitchell-Lama housing has proved highly successful, and I support the continued development and expansion of Mitchell-Lama developments.

Mitchell-Lama developments also promote personal responsibility, community feel, and improved quality of life because each development has a co-op board that operates as a Board of Directors.[10] Each Mitchell-Lama resident is a shareholder in the cooperative with one vote. Accordingly, apartment occupants are shareholders in their own cooperatives and can vote at annual meetings on policy decisions. Residents can also serve on the Board of Directors. The co-op, at the direction of its Board of Directors, hires a managing agent company which carries out the Board’s policies and maintains the daily operations of the housing unit and property. This arrangement ensures that residents take pride in their residences and that Mitchell-Lama developments are well-maintained. This serves as a model to improve New York City housing.

Like in the 1950s when the Mitchell-Lama program was first created, New York City is now faced with residents fleeing to the suburbs and declining quality of life. We must support programs that improve the cost and quality of living in New York City. The Mitchell-Lama program is a proven model that deliver results.

Create a New “Mini-Homes” Program for New York City’s Low-Income, Homeless, and Recently Released Residents

Homelessness in our City has hit its highest level since the 1930s.[11] To provide housing for low-income residents, the homeless, and recently released inmates, I am calling for the creation of a “Mini-Homes” Program. Under this program, New York City will allocate funding and tax incentives to real estate developers to create apartment buildings and housing units with mini-homes. Mini-homes are small, single-unit studios that provide low-rent and safe housing options for New York City’s least fortunate. Prospective NYC residents opting into mini-homes will need to provide proof of employment (or proof that they are searching for employment) to qualify, and a portion of their income will be leveraged to pay for their mini-home unit. Each mini-home apartment will also feature a common space to promote community involvement and collaboration.
Mini-homes will present new, affordable housing option for New York City’s lowest-income residents, while promoting personal responsibility and apartment ownership.

Deliver Lower Property Taxes for NYC’s Low- and Middle-Income Residents

Under New York City’s property tax system, low- and middle-income New Yorkers are shouldering a larger burden of property taxes than the City’s wealthiest residents. Accordingly, I have developed a comprehensive property tax reform plan to deliver a fair, efficient, and transparent property tax system to New York City. Remedying decades of tax inequality, this plan eliminates unfair tax benefits and ensures that New York City’s low- and middle-income communities are no longer forced to subsidize the City’s wealthiest residents and neighborhoods. As the boldest tax proposal of any mayoral candidate in recent history, this plan will finally deliver the tax equality and fairness that has eluded New York City since the 1980s. By finally making private, wealthy universities and landlords pay their fair share, I will create millions of dollars in new tax revenue that delivers economic relief to low- and middle-income NYC residents, while keeping NYC’s budget balanced. I am proposing the following major reforms to NYC’s property tax system:

  1. 2% Property Tax Cap: Implement a 2% Cap on NYC’s Annual Tax Levy
  2. Market Value Assessments: Value and Assess all Residential Properties and New Construction Based on Actual Fair Market Value
  3. Tax Exemption Efficiency Review: Launch a Comprehensive Review of All Properties Receiving Property Tax Exemptions to Ensure NYC’s Tax Expenditures are Being Spent Efficiently; Implement Reviews Every 10 Years
  4. Eliminate University Tax Privilege: Require That Wealthy, Private Universities, Colleges, and Hospitals Pay Their Fair Share in Property Taxes
  5. Eliminate MSG’s Tax Privilege: Eliminate Madison Square Garden’s Property Tax Exemption (Estimated at $42.4 Million/Year)
  6. Supporting Our Seniors: Provide a Property Tax Deduction for Seniors with Household Income Below $75,000
  7. Octennial Efficiency Reviews: Institute a Comprehensive Review of NYC’s Property Tax System Every 8 Years to Ensure It Stays Fair, Efficient, and Transparent
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