After two terms of Bill de Blasio, New York City is gearing up for a mayoral race full of new faces. As of a week ago, there were fourteen candidates still in the mix, which means there’s a whole lot to cover. I’m going to discuss a couple of candidates who have caught my eye and focus specifically on their housing policy plans.

Before, I begin, it’s worth noting that a majority of de Blasio’s housing policy has relied on concepts such as “rezoning” and “development” which translate loosely to gentrification. His projects consistently skewed in favor of white, middle-class families, and even his pursuit for more housing long-term involved the displacement of Black and brown people. The potential for fundamental change in NYC’s approach to its irrefutable housing crisis makes this mayoral election of tantamount importance

Here are the four people I’m paying closest attention to:

Dianne Morales: I’ve been following Dianne for awhile now. She’s a New York native, the daughter of Puerto Rican immigrants, a community organizer, and former CEO of Phipps Neighborhoods, a nonprofit devoted to helping low-income families in the South Bronx rise above poverty through education, career programs, and community services. On the housing front, Dianne is devoted to achieving for Housing for All.

  • She recognizes the dangers of gentrification and deep subsidies for private developers, as well as the long-term impacts of redlining and other discriminatory policies.
  • She supports immediate housing relief during the pandemic, which includes rent cancellations for those who cannot afford them, reimbursements and targeted relief funds for small building owners, mortgage forgiveness for qualifying homeowners, an eviction moratorium until the State of Emergency is lifted, and a guarantee that residents of temporary housing will not be displaced.
  • Long term, Dianne is determined to prioritize tenants’ rights by working towards universal rent stabilization (i.e. eliminating hikes such as MCI and IAI). She also plans to readjust the definition for “affordable housing” to fit the incomes of those who need it and avoid the sort of private maneuvering that leaves so many displaced.
  • Dianne is further invested in equitable zoning, which means the city would partner directly with the communities and promotes cooperative ownership programs, empowering tenants and ensuring that facilities such as parks, daycares, pharmacies, and more are available to everyone.
  • Finally, as someone who grew up in the NYCHA system, Dianne understands the importance of the organization as well as its many shortcomings. She wants to reimagine NYCHA in the terms of the Green New Deal for Public Housing, as well as the Section 3 HUD mandate, aiming to prioritize economic opportunities for low-income residents of public housing.

If I’m being honest, Andrew Yang really only grabbed my interest because he’s leading the race by a lot right now, so if he wins, I want to know what’s to come. For me, his current housing policy is a mixed bag, but I really appreciate his focus on sustainability.

  • He wants to let communities take the charge in in rezoning and redevelopment plans (although he doesn’t specify what that kind of organization would look like).
  • City Hall will prioritize funds for land acquisition and vacant lot allocation in Community Land Trusts (CLTs).
  • According to his website “[e]mbracing co-living and allowing for single-room occupancy (SRO) living spaces will allow individuals to find housing that works for their lives and their budget.” I won’t lie; this feels a bit rich coming from the guy who caught heat earlier in his campaign for saying he simply couldn’t work during the pandemic in his 2-bedroom apartment with his kids, but alas…
  • He wants to invest $48 billion in NYCHA for capital repairs from the federal government.
  • Here’s my favorite part; Yang wants to bring a Green New Deal to NYCHA by abolishing NYCHA’s carbon pollution, accelerating deep energy retrofits (saving hundreds of millions of dollars), committing to putting solar on every NYCHA rooftop by 2030, giving every NYCHA resident access to air conditioning, and ridding NYCHA of mold and lead. He also wants to invest in job training for NYCHA residents with a specific focus on “green” jobs.
  • He wants to add more residents to the NYCHA board, expanding it from seven members to a total of eleven with five non-residents and six residents and make the most of Tenant Participation Activity Funds.
  • Yang wants to prohibit luxury development on NYCHA property, a Yang Administration and require all considered development to be subject to the ULURP process.

Maya Wiley is a nationally recognized social justice advocate and city government leader, who served as counsel to de Blasio and has worked for a variety of organizations, including the NAACP, ACLU, and NBC News. She’s laid out a pretty comprehensive housing policy, prioritizing an end to evictions.

  • Like Dianne, Maya supports an eviction moratorium for the duration of the pandemic.
  • She wants to transform rent relief through the creation of an “ambitious Citywide rent and tax relief program for small landlords and nonprofit landlords,” thus bailing out tenants and landlords.
  • She wants to create stronger eviction protections through increased legal representation for NYC tenants (yay!) by expanding the income threshold from 200% of the federal poverty line to 400% and partnering with area law schools and pro-bono legal partners to introduce a community lawyering model.
  • She hopes to create a rapid rehousing program that responds to pandemic-induced issues specifically.

Scott Stringer has been serving as comptroller of NYC since 2013. He’s considered a progressive who makes an effort to appeal to more moderate voters, and he has some experience already in improving housing.

  • Over the course of his career, he has identified over 1000 vacant, city-owned lots that could hold up to 50,000 new units.
  • He has also aggressively audited NYCHA for repairs and improved quality of public housing.
  • He proposed a sweeping “Universal Affordable Housing” requirement for all new construction in NYC, which would require 25% permanently low-income, affordable housing in every new development with 10+ units
  • The requirement also supports focusing all NYC housing investments on affordable housing to address the city’s homelessness problem.

Like I said, these candidates make up only a small fraction of the mix. However, I hope this synopsis was somewhat helpful for those of you interested in potential progressive housing policy as NYC moves forward.