City’s future depends on affordable housing

BY COREY JOHNSON | There is absolutely no question about it: The single most pressing issue facing New York City is the lack of affordable housing.

Unprecedented real estate speculation and an influx of millionaires and billionaires are putting incredible pressure on our housing stock. Market rents are being driven to astronomical levels. Rent-stabilized tenants are being forced out. Neighborhood residents who have lived here their entire lives are finding themselves unable to makes ends meet. Longtime neighbors are being replaced by Airbnb tourists.

This phenomenon is manifesting in cities across the country, and most acutely on Manhattan’s West Side. It impacts us on a humanitarian level, as the homeless population surges and countless others live in fear of losing their homes, and on a community level, as our close-knit neighborhood networks are priced out of existence.

We must aggressively build new affordable housing while stopping the hemorrhage of existing affordable housing. We must do it like the city’s future depends on it, because it does.

Since being sworn into office, I have made this issue an absolute priority. I’ve fought hard for new affordable housing in Council District 3, with more than 1,000 new affordable units currently in the pipeline. Some examples include the former slaughterhouse site at 495 11th Ave., which will be a 100 percent affordable building with 250 units. I negotiated nearly 500 units of new affordable housing, 180 of which will be for seniors, at 550 Washington St., at W. Houston St. A 100 percent affordable building with 160 new units is under construction at 413 W. 18th St. Two 100 percent affordable buildings totaling 300 new units are coming to former Department of Environmental Protection and M.T.A. sites in Hell’s Kitchen. We need to do more, and quickly. Demanding more affordable housing in my district will continue to be my top priority.

It is equally essential that we keep the affordable units we have. Like water pouring out of a hole in a bucket, the city has been losing affordable housing for decades. Unscrupulous landlords are exploiting loopholes in the rent-stabilization law to deregulate units. When our rent laws were up for renewal in Albany, I was arrested in the state capitol while demanding that these loopholes be removed. I was the prime sponsor of the Council bill that renewed rent stabilization in New York City. I helped lead the fight for a rent freeze at the Rent Guidelines Board.

I’m sponsoring legislation to expand supportive housing for people with H.I.V. I co-sponsored the State for Tenant Safety bills, which crack down on construction-as-harassment and created the office of Tenant Advocate within the Department of Buildings.

I have helped lead the fight against Airbnb, which is transforming entire buildings into illegal hotels and taking thousands of units off the market that could be housing full-time residents.

We have succeeded at extending the life of our largest affordable housing developments. We extended tax abatements for Penn South to 2052, maintaining affordability at the 2,820-unit Chelsea bastion of affordability. Manhattan Plaza is currently extending its Section 8 contract until 2044.

I want to thank everyone who has fought alongside me these four years. We have much more work to do, and I hope to be honored with the chance to serve you another four years.

Johnson, who is running on the Democratic and Working Families party lines, is city councilmember, Third District, including the Village, Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen

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