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Affordable housing advocates promise renewed push in 2018

A coalition of housing advocacy groups announced it will launch a new push in January to promote Housing Justice for All, a statewide campaign to pressure Governor Cuomo to pass stronger rent laws and invest more in affordable housing.

The campaign officially kicks off January 3, when activists are planning civil disobedience at Cuomo’s State of the State address in Albany.

Following the address, the group is planning a door-knocking and field program, along with town hall events and a print and digital ad campaign to draw in low-income tenants and homeless New Yorkers who don’t feel enough has been done at the State level.

The group seeks to mobilize tenants and the homeless throughout the state, in areas including New York City, Westchester, Long Island, Albany, Rochester, and Binghamton.

In a press release, Housing Justice for All criticized Cuomo’s “landlord and developer donors” as fueling gentrification and displacement of long-time residents. The campaign will call on Cuomo to expand protections for vulnerable tenants in New York, and “invest in people, not developers.”

“Tenants are a potent, well-organized constituency, and they are telling Governor Cuomo that the Housing Justice for All campaign is real and is not going away. On behalf of the tenants we serve, the Alliance for Tenant Power is joining forces with organizations across the state that support homeless New Yorkers and renters to force the governor to fix his failed record on housing. It is outrageous and wrong that so many New Yorkers are struggling to stay in their homes or are homeless and cannot afford housing at all, while Cuomo continues to give his landlord and developer donors special treatment,” said Delsenia Glover, Alliance for Tenant Power campaign manager.

The campaign launch comes at a time when there are tens of thousands of homeless families in shelters across the state of New York. The number of homeless increased increased 41 percent between 2007 and 2015, according to data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

However, according to HUD, the number of people experiencing homelessness declined in 37 states between 2015 and 2016. New York state had one of the largest absolute decreases with 1,898 fewer people.

In a statement to Real Estate Weekly, Rent Stabilization Association (RSA) president Joseph Strasburg said the RSA supported Housing Justice for All on some issues but disagreed on others.

“We couldn’t agree more with some of the points made by Housing Justice for All. Income-challenged tenants should be getting more rent assistance from all levels of government – city, state and Federal,” said Joseph Strasburg, President of the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents 25,000 landlords of 1 million rent-stabilized apartments in the five boroughs.

“But why isn’t Housing Justice for All supporting existing legislative proposals in Albany that would immediately and significantly address affordability and provide real, permanent rent relief programs to keep the poorest, income-challenged families in their homes and provide real solutions to homelessness?” said Strasburg.

“Why isn’t Housing Justice for All getting behind “Home Stability Support” legislation, which would address the city’s record homelessness by providing a Federal and state-funded rent subsidy for tenants who are facing homelessness or eviction? And why isn’t this advocacy coalition supporting the “Tenant Rent Increase Exemption” (TRIE) proposal (which twice passed unanimously in the State Senate) that would provide a permanent rent subsidy to all tenants – not just senior citizens and the disabled – with annual incomes of $50,000 or less who pay half their income toward rent?” he said.”If the so-called advocates supported these existing legislative proposals – and these proposals became law, and provided much-needed assistance to tenants that need it most – I imagine it would put Housing Justice for All out of business. By failing to support these already substantive legislative proposals in Albany, it would appear that the affordability and homeless advocates, like Housing Justice for All, are really just advocating for their own existence.”

In February, when the number of people living in homeless shelters hit a record 62,435, Mayor de Blasio announced a plan to curb a rise in homelessness in the city through the opening of 90 new homeless shelters, an expansion of 30 existing shelters, and a phasing out of the use of 360 hotels and privately-owned apartment clusters that housed homeless families.

In July, New York City’s affordable housing plan got a revamp from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, amid criticism over homelessness and a shortage of affordable housing under Mayor de Blasio.

The original plan called for building and preserving 40,000 units for the New York City’s lowest-income residents over 10 years — the new goal is now 50,000 units. That specific designation applies to families of three earning no more than $42,950 per year. For moderate and middle-income New Yorkers, which is defined as three-person households making roughly $69,000 to $141,735, they are now slated to get slightly less affordable housing units – 39,000 subsidized units as compared to 44,000 in the initial plan.

De Blasio’s 10-year plan that was unveiled in 2014 called for creating and preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing, but many community advocates have criticized the administration, saying that they haven’t done enough.

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