It’s safe to say that this has been one of the most stressful weeks in recent electoral history for America as a whole. One way I’m dealing with the anxiety of our country’s future hanging in the balance is focusing on the positive things that we do know.
We’re lucky that many state election results are in, so we can say with some certainty that a substantial progressive presence is slowly but surely growing in Congress. This is due in part to NYC representatives in the House, both new and incumbent. These candidates share many of the values that make the likes of Bernie Sanders such stand-out politicians; here are a few who are particularly notable in the area of housing justice.
- Jamaal Bowman (16th District – parts of the Bronx and Westchester County): Bowman is pushing for a “deep reinvestment in the New York Housing Authority”, by supporting Rep. Nydia Velazquez’s current bill to grant $32 billion to the organization. In addition to demanding more financial support for new and existent public housing, he is also calling for measures such as a moratorium on back-door privatization schemes and investing both money and real estate into ending New York’s huge homelessness issue. He has called for “A New Deal for Housing”, which calls for national rent control, just-cause eviction protections, and right to counsel in housing court. Bowman additionally supports repealing the Faircloth Amendment and President Trump’s SALT Deduction Cap.
- Ritchie Torres (15th District – South Bronx and southern parts of West Bronx): I do have a few bones to pick with Torres, but let’s start with the good stuff. He served as Chair of City Council’s Committee on Public Housing, overseeing NYCHA and introducing legislation to fund public housing. He also worked as a tenant organizer during his time serving on the Council and famously dubbed the NYC housing deficit “a humanitarian crisis“. Torres additionally led investigations into NYC’s poor housing conditions failure to address the issue of lead-paint poisoning in residences.
Unfortunately, Torres’ record is not perfectly clean on housing. During his campaign for Congress, he accepted thousands of dollars in donor money from the real estate industry, including a contracting company with a history of wage theft and fraud allegations. Some of those donors reportedly have money in projects in the South Bronx, one of which is being called “The Next Williamsburg”, a concerning prospect for the lower-income Black and Brown community of the South Bronx. They, along with the rest of New York, know exactly what happened to the residents of the Williamsburg area in Brooklyn before it was gentrified. I’m curious to see if Torres will hold out on his campaign promises or succumb to his donors, resulting in mass evictions.
Representative-elect Mondaire Jones of the 17th District (not in the boroughs, but close by i.e. regions of Westchester, White Plains) doesn’t have an official detailed housing platform yet, but he is bringing a host of progressive goals to the House, including ensuring safe and secure housing for LGBTQ+ youth in NYC.
Furthermore, incumbent Yvette Clark of the Ninth District (Brooklyn) and the main driver of the Affordable Housing and Area Median Income Fairness Act, which notably lowers rent and redefines affordable housing, was reelected. Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez, 14th District (eastern Bronx and north-central Queens) incumbent and political superstar also made a strong return. Her housing plan includes the Green New Deal for Public Housing, a progressive policy cornerstone of both environmental and tenant protections. Additionally, re-elected incumbent Nydia Velázquez of the Seventh District (parts of BK, Queens, and Manhattan) has been a trailblazer in the House for NYC reps by, among other things, introducing the Public Housing Emergency Response Act and pushing for rent suspension during COVID-19.
Although Democrats lost seats in the House this time around, the Progressive presence is becoming more assertive with each passing election. This seeming paradox signifies the distinction in policy priorities between establishment Democrats and Progressives; the latter group has certainly shown more concern for housing justice, and I am excited to see what they are able to accomplish in NYC as we move forward.