CREATE A MODERN MITCHELL-LAMA HOUSING PROGRAM: The Mitchell-Lama Program was established in 1955 and spurred an incredible surge in New York City homeownership for working and middle-class city dwellers. According to a Mitchell-Lama report, from the beginning of the program to its end in 1978, nearly 140,000 apartments were built for every-day New Yorkers.
This program was a success for working and middle-class families looking to live and grow their families in New York. But now, millennials are left struggling to meet their rent demands or have to move farther and farther away from the city because they can’t afford to live here. The dream of starting a family in the city they love is beyond their reach.
An Urban Institute study found that “Millennials are less likely to be homeowners than baby boomers and Gen Xers. The homeownership rate among millennials ages 25 to 34 is eight percentage points lower than baby boomers and 8.4 percentage points lower than Gen Xers in the same age group.” The study also indicated that:
Increasing education debt has reduced millennials’ likelihood of owning a home, as debt rises their debt-to-income ratios and lowers their remaining income to save for a down payment.
High rental costs make it difficult for millennials to save for a down payment.
Obtaining a mortgage has become more challenging since the housing market crisis because of an unstable labor market and tightening credit standards.
The supply of affordable housing has declined over the past decade, especially in areas where millennials prefer living.
Establishing a new Mitchell-Lama for this generation of middle-class Americans, who are more educated than any generation before them, will enhance the possibilities for the future of New York City.
My program would allow couples with a combined annual income of $350,000 or less to attain homeownership in NYC.
This program will establish new and exciting co-op developments that provide an economic opportunity to generate wealth and income mobility for a generation that’s been battered by the Financial Crisis and now the COVID-19 pandemic.
EXPAND COMMUNITY LAND TRUSTS: Community Land Trusts are non-profit organizations that develop and stewards affordable housing, community gardens, civic buildings, commercial spaces, and other community assets on behalf of a community. These organizations balance individuals' needs to access land and maintain the security of tenure with a community's need to maintain affordability, economic diversity, and local access to essential services.
In the latest budget, the City Council secured $637,500 towards funding the Community Land Trust Initiative. That's not nearly enough. Community Land Trusts need to be supported at a $5 million per year rate to successfully create and fully fund non-profit organizations seeking to maintain and expand affordability and create long-lasting community services access.
REIMAGINE AND EXPAND THE MANDATORY INCLUSIONARY HOUSING PROGRAM: The Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) Program was established by Mayor De Blasio in 2016 to increase permanently affordable housing as a condition of residential development when building in an MIH zone.
In broad terms, the program has successfully increased affordable housing production (despite the most recent budget where funding was drastically cut) but has faced fair criticism around its implementation. In narrower terms, the program has failed due to its concentration of affordable housing in the lowest socioeconomic areas of New York City. Intergenerational income mobility, that core tenet of the American Dream, is predicated on access to the best schools and economic opportunity. Permanent affordable housing is more effective when built in the wealthiest areas of the city.
Further, the concentration of MIH affordable housing in the lowest socioeconomic areas makes the program more expensive for taxpayers while also limiting the development of more affordable housing units.
A study by NYU’s Furman Center found, “In many neighborhoods, including some that the city has already targeted for the new program, market rents are too low to justify new mid and high-rise construction, so additional density would offer no immediate value to developers that could be used to cross-subsidize affordable units. In these areas, inclusionary zoning will need to rely on direct city subsidy for the time being to generate any new units at all regardless of the income level they serve.
“Where high rents make additional density valuable, there is the capacity to cross-subsidize new affordable units without direct subsidy…”
Furthermore, a report commissioned by de Blasio’s administration found “MIH requirements work best in strong housing markets. Rental projects in moderate and weak markets do not achieve sufficient returns to achieve feasibility without subsidies…”
STREAMLINE THE REVIEW PROCESS: New York City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) is a lengthy review procedure that can be shortened by 40–50% when involving affordable housing projects. At times, ULURP can act as a barrier in some of the wealthiest and unwelcoming neighborhoods to diversity and inclusion by restricting the development of these necessary projects that have an immediate positive impact on the community.
ELIMINATE OFF-STREET PARKING REQUIREMENTS: Parking requirements are a burden on housing developments and counteract city goals, drive up development costs, and reduce space for additional housing. Eliminating this requirement can reduce vehicle congestion, reduce air pollution, create a more walkable city, and improve economic development.
CREATE A HOUSING VOUCHER PROGRAM TO INCREASE SOCIAL MOBILITY: Housing vouchers, also known as Section 8, have helped numerous families keep a roof over their heads. The program has also led to many families facing difficulties in attaining housing in high opportunity areas because landlords hold an excessive amount of power over who can live within their developments.
A Seattle-based experiment called “Creating Moves to Opportunity” found a 40 percent boost in the share of families with vouchers who could move to better neighborhoods. The program implemented a two-part strategy to increase the mobility of families with housing vouchers.
The first part created a Family Facing Service that included:
Opportunity area education to increase families’ knowledge and interest in opportunity areas.
Rental application coaching to increase families’ competitiveness for private market rental units by working to understand and mitigate rental barriers.
Housing search assistance to expand and improve families’ housing search process and leasing outcomes.
Flexible financial assistance to defray housing search and lease-up expenses, such as application fees and security deposits.
The second part created a Landlord Facing Intervention program that included:
Landlord engagement to make outreach to property owners and leasing agents in designated opportunity areas and promote the benefits of CMTO (and the voucher program) to encourage them to rent to CMTO families.
Expedite lease-up processes to ensure fast processing times and minimize delays in leasing up due to PHA requirements.
Damage mitigation insurance incentivizing property owners and landlords to participate in CMTO.
REPEAL THE FAIRCLOTH AMENDMENT & FULLY FUND EXISTING HOUSING AUTHORITIES: In 1999, Congress passed the Faircloth Amendment, which was signed into law by President Clinton. It banned the federal government from funding any new public housing projects that would increase net units. (A bill recently passed the U.S. House repealed it, but with Republican obstruction in the Senate and the White House, it isn't going anywhere).
The city is facing an economic catastrophe unseen for a century. According to a report by The New School’s Center for New York City Affairs, NYC's unemployment rate soared from February to May from a historic low of 3.4 percent to 18.3 percent in May. And, if you added the 380,000 unemployed workers who stopped looking for jobs during the pandemic, the city's unemployment rate would rise to 26 percent.
Repealing the Faircloth Amendment and fully funding current public housing operations and maintenance for existing housing authority residents is desperately needed as we face an economic calamity. With the unemployment rate soaring, many will need housing options restricted by current policies like the Faircloth Amendment.