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New York City’s next mayor will have to make housing policy decisions that will have a profound effect on New Yorkers and neighborhoods across the city.

In the past decade, rents across NYC have continued to rise while have incomes stagnated or declined. The city is facing a critical shortage of affordable housing. As a result, housing has been a hot topic in the race for New York City’s next mayor.

How the next New York City mayor will take on the challenge of addressing housing in an environment of increasing needs, declining federal support, and a strengthening real estate market will have an enormous effect on the livability, diversity, and character of the city.

The #NYChousing series identifies 10 key affordable housing issues that will confront the next mayor of New York City, aiming to inform the public about the tradeoffs involved to the public debate by providing an objective analysis of the pros, cons, and questions the mayoral candidates should address head-on.

To read the entire series:

  • INTRODUCTION TO THE SERIES

    Although the real estate market in New York City slowed considerably during the recent downturn, there was no slowdown in the demand for affordable housing.

    WHY IT MATTERS: Over the past decade, rents across the city continued to rise while incomes stagnated or fell. The next mayor will have to take on the challenge of addressing growing housing needs in an environment of shrinking federal support and a strengthening real estate market.

  • 1. HOUSING BUDGET

    Should the next mayor commit to build or rehabilitate more units of affordable housing than the Bloomberg Administration has financed?

    WHY IT MATTERS: The city, state, and federal governments help address the shortage of affordable housing by subsidizing the development, rehabilitation, and operation of affordable units. If the next mayoral administration moved towards a policy of permanent affordability in government-financed programs, it would potentially have significant effects on tenants, the location of affordable housing, and on the amount and type of affordable housing that is developed in the future.

  • 2. PERMANENT AFFORDABILITY

    Should the next mayor require developers to permanently maintain the affordability of units developed with public subsidies?

    WHY IT MATTERS: The city, state, and federal governments help address the shortage of affordable housing by subsidizing the development, rehabilitation, and operation of affordable units. If the next mayoral administration moved towards a policy of permanent affordability in government-financed programs, it would potentially have significant effects on tenants, the location of affordable housing, and on the amount and type of affordable housing that is developed in the future.

  • 3. MANDATORY INCLUSIONARY ZONING

    Should the next mayor adopt a mandatory inclusionary zoning program that requires developers to build or preserve affordable housing whenever they build market-rate housing?

    WHY IT MATTERS: Several candidates have proposed implementinga policy of mandatory inclusionary zoning as a way to increase the development or preservation of more affordable housing units. Should the next mayoral administration implement such a policy, it would have potentially significant impacts on the production not only of affordable housing, but also on the residential housing market across New York City.

  • 4. CITY PENSION FUNDS

    Should the next mayor seek to expand the use of city pension funds to develop affordable housing?

    WHY IT MATTERS: Some candidates have suggested tapping the city pension funds as a way to maintain or increase the funding available to create and preserve affordable housing. The pension funds of New York City have some $137 billion in assets and might appear to be a valuable source of capital. However, the law limits the potential uses of these funds and restricts the mayor’s ability to control their use.

  • 5. MODERATE-INCOME HOUSEHOLD SUBSIDY

    Should the next mayor provide a rental subsidy for moderate- and middle-income households?

    WHY IT MATTERS: Housing is a substantial expense for New Yorkers, and has grown even less affordable in the last decade.  As housing affordability becomes more of a strain for moderate- and middle-income households, many worry that those households might choose to leave the city altogether, which could undermine the city’s diversity and vitality.

  • 6. TRANSFERABLE DEVELOPMENT RIGHTS

    Should the next mayor permit more distant transfers of unused development rights to support the development of affordable housing?

    WHY IT MATTERS: In a very dense city with a significant need for affordable housing, unused development rights are an important potential source of additional capacity. Wider transfer of development rights would support the development of affordable housing. Many communities, however, fear the increased density that additional transfers would create.

  • 7. NYCHA LAND LEASE

    ​Should the next mayor support the New York City Housing Authority’s plan to lease its undeveloped land for the construction of market-rate rental housing?

    WHY IT MATTERS: The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is the largest provider of affordable housing in New York City, currently housing roughly five percent of the city’s population. The agency is facing dire financial shortfalls, however, that threaten the long-term viability of its stock. NYCHA needs to close its operating and capital budget gaps, and has a limited number of options to do so.

  • 8. PRIORITY FOR HOMELESS FAMILIES

    Should the next mayor allow homeless families to move to the top of the waiting list for housing vouchers or public housing?

    WHY IT MATTERS: In recent months, the homeless population in New York City has reached its highest level since the Great Depression. While the city and state have adopted a variety of strategies to house the homeless, the growth of the population shows that much more needs to be done to assist homeless households seeking to move from shelter to permanent housing.

  • 9. 421-A PROPERTY TAX BENEFIT

    Should the next mayor offer to cap the property tax levy on 421-a rental properties in order to preserve the affordable units within those buildings?

    WHY IT MATTERS: Offering tax breaks to real estate developers may incentivize the construction or preservation of affordable housing, but such subsidies can also deprive the city of much-needed revenue. As the city faces significant budgetary challenges, policymakers must ensure that tax subsidy programs like 421-a are structured as efficiently as possible.

  • 10. AFFORDABLE HOUSING PRESERVATION

    How should the next mayor prioritize the preservation of existing affordable housing units?

    WHY IT MATTERS: Over 45,000 existing units of affordable housing will expire from their current affordability restrictions and require new subsidies during the next mayor’s first term. Resources for preserving those units likely will be quite constrained.  The next administration accordingly will have to make hard choices between funding the construction and preservation of affordable units.