Housing in Brief: New York Advocates Put Pressure on Kathy Hochul

Plus: Boise, Idaho has the nation’s least affordable housing market, and more

House NY campaign at Hudson Yards

Housing rights activists rallied at Hudson Yards to launch the House NY campaign calling on legislators to enact real long-term solutions to the COVID-19 housing crisis. (Photo by Karla Cote / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

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House NY Campaign Launches with Rallies Across the State

A state-wide campaign for affordable housing in New York launched with coordinated rallies in Albany, Rochester, Buffalo and New York City. The House NY campaign is calling on Governor Kathy Hochul and the state legislature to pass a slate of reforms including more funding in the Housing Our Neighbors with Dignity Act, which funds hotel to affordable housing conversions, and “Good Cause” eviction, which would provide tenants with a right to lease renewal and require stricter legal justification for eviction. The campaign also wants to abolish 421a, a controversial tax exemption for developers that amounts to $1.7 billion annually and which mostly subsidizes market-rate housing.

The House NY campaign is organized by a coalition of nonprofits including VOCAL-NY, Make The Road NY, Met Council on Housing, CASA Bronx and NY Communities for Change. The NYC rally was held a few feet away from The Vessel, a $200 million sculpture that sits in the center of the $25 billion Hudson Yards complex, which was funded in part through tax breaks intended for a low-income neighborhood in Harlem. After the rally, a crowd of about 60 supporters marched to nearby 10th Avenue and blocked traffic for 92 seconds, in honor of an estimated 92,000 homeless New York state residents.

Campaign organizers are hoping to put pressure on Kathy Hochul ahead of her election campaign, which is already ramping up in advance of the primary in June 2022. There,Hochul will face a primary challenge from Attorney General Tish James, who has already professed support for the Good Cause eviction bill. New York’s renters are facing a looming eviction crisis as a moratorium on evictions has passed and the $2.5 billion fund to help renters and landlords has stopped accepting new applications.

The House NY campaign has already faced backlash from the Real Estate Board of New York, a landlord group which has argued that rent regulations will exacerbate the affordable housing crisis.

California Attorney General Threatens Legal Action To Increase Affordable Housing Supply

In California, attorney general Rob Bonta signalled he would be acting to enforce a slate of housing laws signed by Governor Newsom in September, according to Peninsula Press. Bonta says he will sue to enforce laws that require cities and other localities to zone and build their share of affordable housing. “Housing is going to be a human right. There must be enforcement mechanisms to make it real and to deliver that right to people who deserve it,” Bonta told the Peninsula Press.

The laws increase the attorney general’s power to sue localities that are not sufficiently creating or purchasing housing options for the state’s homeless population, according to Peninsula Press. Bonta will implement a “Housing Strike Force” under the California Department of Justice to enforce the laws, he said in a Nov. 3 press release, though he provided few details on how the strikeforce would function. About 150,000 Californians are homeless and another 700,000 are at risk of eviction according to the AG’s office. Advocates hope that lawsuits will counter NIMBYism that has become more pronounced in the past year, as locals have protested conversions of hotels to permanent affordable housing under the state’s Project Homekey initiative.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Raise Loan Limits

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two government-steered entities that guarantee or purchase most of the country’s home loans, will raise its maximum loan amount from about $822,000 to almost $1 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. The increase is a response to rising home prices which have reached $363,700 for a single family home according to data from the National Association of Realtors.

Boise, Idaho Has Least Affordable Housing Market in the U.S.

According to the Oxford Economics Housing Affordability Index, Boise is the least affordable place for residents to buy a home in the United States and the second least affordable in North America. The ranking — which was released in a report from Oxford Economics earlier this month — was created by comparing the median home price to the city’s median income. Boise’s homes cost 72 percent above what residents can afford, according to Seattle Times. According to data from the National Association of Realtors, overall housing affordability in the U.S. has improved in the last 20 years, but data from the Federal Reserve show a more complicated picture, as first-time home-buyers face ever steeper burdens.

St. Louis Housing Coalition Releases Report Card

In St. Louis, the Affordable Housing Trust Fund Coalition released a report on affordability based on income and race, finding that nearly 30 percent of households were cost-burdened, which increased to 78 percent for those in the lowest income bracket. 55 percent of Black renters and 28 percent of Black homeowners were cost-burdened, compared with 39 percent of White renters and 18 percent of White homeowners who were cost-burdened. The report pointedly details what type of affordable housing is needed, charting the vastly higher unmet demand for housing stock for low-income renters, a need that tapers out as income levels rise. A need for affordable housing in other parts of the country have been met with calls for more market rate housing from those who argue that any new housing will bring down overall housing costs, but such proposals rarely if ever benefit the most cost-burdened in the short-term.

This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our weekly Backyard newsletter.

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Roshan Abraham is Next City's housing correspondent and a former Equitable Cities fellow. He is based in Queens. Follow him on Twitter at @roshantone.

Tags: new york cityaffordable housingcaliforniast. louisevictionsboise

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