As NYC rents rise, Eric Adams faces pressure over housing crisis

Shortly after becoming mayor of New York, Eric Adams said he would roll out a “comprehensive housing plan” within weeks to tackle rising...


Shortly after becoming mayor of New York, Eric Adams said he would roll out a “comprehensive housing plan” within weeks to tackle rising housing costs and homelessness that have made the city l emblem of a growing national crisis.

But four months on, Mr Adams has yet to deliver on the promises he made during his campaign and has recalled at least one, drawing criticism over the priority he places on a major issue for many New Yorker.

Details of the plan are still being worked out, ahead of an expected release next month. It will come as rising rents and the end of pandemic-era safety nets put pressure on the new administration to aggressively tackle a set of seemingly intractable problems including Mr. Adams. inherited and which have an enormous impact on the economy and the social fabric of the city.

“I think what we’re seeing with rising rents now was really unimaginable just a few years ago,” said Rachel Fee, executive director of the nonprofit New York Housing Conference, listed as a contributor for a housing committee on Mr. Adams’ transition team. “It must be a major issue for the mayor. I think that the town hall must respond to this with more urgency.

City council members, who negotiate the budget with the mayor, also called for more spending on building and preserving affordable housing, after Mr Adams proposed only a modest increase over spending on the previous administration for the next few years in his capital. budget plan.

At a rally on the steps of City Hall last week, Pierina Sanchez, chair of the City Council’s housing committee, said, “New York City needs to address the affordable housing crisis, the housing, such as issue #1.

Adrienne Adams, the city council president, echoed calls for more investment in a “state of the city” address last weekend.

The mayor defended his pace, even as a staff shortage at the Department of Housing Preservation and Development hampered the city’s ability to move forward with affordable housing projects.

“I know it feels like I’ve been mayor for five years, but I’ve been here for five months,” Mr Adams told a press conference last Friday. “I inherited a broken city, with broken systems. We can either put a band-aid on these faulty systems or go to the heart and fix them.

But he added: “There is no rush to do so. We have to do it right.

In New York, about a third of renters are “severely rent-constrained,” meaning they spend more than 50% of their income on rent, according to a survey of the city’s housing stock published last week.

More than 48,000 people slept in shelters in New York each night in March, according to the Coalition for the Homelessthe number of single adults in shelters increasing steadily over the past few years.

The pandemic has exacerbated many of these problems, as tens of thousands of people have struggled to pay their rent or mortgage and have sought government assistance.

Many places across the country are struggling with housing affordability, and it is increasingly recognized that one of the root causes is the shortage of available housing.

This week, President Biden announced a new plan to address the housing crisis which would prompt reform of zoning laws to allow for more density, among other provisions.

The city’s affordability crisis has been highlighted more than once in recent weeks. A report published this month by the brokerage firm Douglas Elliman showed that rents in some parts of the city are keep climbing: In Manhattan, for example, the median effective rent in April 2022 was $3,870, more than 38% higher than a year ago and the highest level on record.

The city’s housing stock survey highlighted a long-standing trend of declining affordability: between 2017 and 2021, New York City lost nearly 100,000 units rented for less than $1,500 per month, while it added 107,000 units that rented at least $2,300 per month. .

A panel effectively controlled by the mayor recently voted to support some of the biggest rent increases in nearly a decade for rent-stabilized homes – where more than two million people live, many of them on lower incomes. Evictions slowly risingafter the state’s pandemic moratorium expired in January.

The future housing plan should include provisions to reduce homelessness, improve conditions in public housing and increase homeownership opportunities for middle- and low-income New Yorkers, according to testimony. housing officials.

During his campaign, Mr. Adams has made solving the housing crisis and the housing shortage the main issues.

He said he would double the city’s capital investment in housing, including public housing and the preservation and development of affordable housing, to $4 billion a year, about double the amount spent by the previous administration.

Instead, Mr Adams called for spending on average $500 million more each year for the next 10 years.

Mr. Adams also promised to reform zoning rules that prevent many neighborhoods from building taller buildings, especially in wealthier neighborhoods — which he called “the sacred cows — which have resisted new developments.

He specifically pointed to blocks in a strip of Manhattan — from 14th Street to 42nd Street, and between Park and Ninth Avenues — as targets for rezoning.

Mr Adams did not respond to questions last week on whether it would still be part of the housing plan. And even when a plan becomes final, he’s not sure his housing agency has enough staff to see it through.

In May, Adolfo Carrión, the city’s housing commissioner, said staffing remained “one of the biggest challenges we face.”

“We lack project managers,” Mr. Carrión said during his testimony before the city council. “We lack the lawyers to do these deals.”

The department’s legal team that handles real estate transactions has seen a steady exodus of transaction attorneys and is now missing at least three of the five supervising attorneys – an assistant general counsel and two associate assistant general counsel, according to two officials. of housing – depriving the department of the necessary legal expertise.

The city has decided to fund 77 new positions within the department, but it’s unclear how quickly the city will be able to fill them or what impact they will have. Carrión noted that while the agency’s corps of housing inspectors has a budget for nearly 470 inspectors, more than 140 are short.

The personnel situation is so serious that the department has posted a review on its website, warning some city grant applicants that due to “limited staff capacity and a large backlog of projects,” it will take “up to a year” to assign a project manager to them. .

The mayor did not respond to questions about the impact of the shortage.

Previous administrations also took several months or more to develop housing plans. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg released his housing plan in December of his first year in office, and while he is credited with helping to redevelop the city and secure affordable housing, critics also blame his plans to allow for displacement and inequalities.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has made housing a centerpiece of his campaign, released a housing plan about five months after taking office that eventually evolved into a goal of building or preserving 300,000 affordable housing units. 2026.

Although this is a significant increase in investment from previous administrations, the plan has been criticized for focusing too much on numerical targets and too little on affordability for low-income families.

Charles Lutvak, a spokesman for Mr Adams, said the housing plan would “replace counterproductive measures with real results”.

The plan, which the city says is being formulated with input from people who have experienced homelessness and social housing residents, will focus on measuring how quickly people can access affordable housing as well as the total number of units filled during a specific time period, the mayor’s office says.

“It doesn’t come out on day one,” said Moses Gates, vice president of housing and neighborhood planning at the Regional Plan Association, a nonprofit housing plan group. “It takes collaboration and real nose-to-grinding work, and I think it’s still early days in this administration.”

Some New Yorkers think Mr. Adams needs to act faster.

Beverly Rivers, 66, has lived for 25 years in rent-stabilized housing in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, and her $1,009 rent already exceeds the money she receives from disability benefits, her only income.

Any rent increase will be on top of the more than $8,000 she says she owes her landlord, who sued to evict her last month.

Ms Rivers said she voted for Mr Adams, believing he would fight for the poor, but she was disappointed he did not support a rent freeze or reduction.

“He didn’t do anything for us,” she said. “He’s not for us.”

Matthew Haag contributed report.

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Newsrust - US Top News: As NYC rents rise, Eric Adams faces pressure over housing crisis
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