14 Arrested in Manhattan Protesting for Affordable Housing Plans to Be Included in 2023 Budget

Time is running out for this friday april 1 Governor Kathy Hochul and members of the State Legislature finish their ‘dance’ of negotiations on what will the fiscal 2023 budget include and what will it leave out of New York, for $216.3 billion.

Already in the ‘agony’ of these discussions, hundreds of organizations announced that they will mobilize in various parts of the state in the remainder of the week, so that this ‘dance of millions’ includes benefits for New Yorkers every time more vulnerable due to inflation, the affordable housing crisis and a climate of pandemic recovery which is shaping up to be very uphill, particularly for immigrants. And, even more so, if they are undocumented.

Already in the first actions that began this Monday in the surroundings of the office of the state president in the 633 Third Avenueat the pedestrian crossing of 40th Street in Manhattan, 14 activists from the Housing for All coalition, who sat on that road artery preventing vehicular access, they were arrested in the middle of the demonstration of “call of attention” to the state authority.

The protesters strongly demanded that the tax exemption model 421-A be changed, for real estate developers in exchange for affordable units, which has been described in an analysis shared by 72 organizations as “a gift to the richest”while the housing crisis continues and the displacement of the poorest in their neighborhoods.

“This is a program, which in general, it has been a failure for the working class. We are telling the Governor that there is no time to waste. And we hope that this is the year where this unfair housing model ends. We demand changes and models that are more climate-sustainable,” he asserted. Alice Huorganizer of Communities for a Change (NYCC).

“And affordable housing?”

As specified in a letter addressed to Governor Hochul, real estate developers through Law 421-A “have been exempted only in the last year, more than $1.7 billion in tax payments. This has been foregone tax revenue for New York City.”

In the last three decades, the communication says, the price of the program has increased 402% and has cost the City more than $22.2 billion.

“This is more than any other individual housing expense, including public housing, renter’s vouchers or the development of new subsidized housing”, they highlighted.

Meanwhile, in the opinion of the activists, after 50 years when the 421-A tax-exempt plan kicked off, “as has been seen, it only increased the cost of real estate in the Big Apple and did not produce truly affordable housing.”

Activists recalled that even with multiple reform attempts, the vast majority of residential units under the 421-A program, They are at market price.

As of 2017, there are largely no real regulations, and most of the supposedly “affordable” units are aimed at households earning 130% of the area median income.

“This is more than the wages or salaries of 75% of New York City residents. Public subsidies should not produce so-called ‘affordable housing’ that is more expensive than market in most neighborhoods”specified the activists in the letter.

Between evictions and rent increase without control

But the housing crisis in the Big Apple has implications that expand not only to those who have not had the option of entering the narrow funnel of controlled rents, but it is an expansive wave that has moved the floor of thousands, who in this instant, almost they have a “foot in the street”. And another group, who find themselves in a dead end, due to the rent that increases without any control.

It must be remembered that since the beginning of the year an end point was put on the pandemic executive orders, which for months prevented landlords from eviction processes will begin due to a moratorium.

In parallel, other families suffer surprising and high increases in income, which in some cases reach between 30 and 50% in the renewal of residential contracts of non-rent controlled units.

In this sense, community activists and defenders warned that in the state budget scenario, to date, there is nothing clear that can be interpreted as a short-term relief for thousands of workers who fell behind in their residential rents, as a consequence of the closures caused by COVID-19 between 2020 and 2021.

But there are some legal initiatives that could put a brake on disproportionate increases in the future and evictions for those who are not behind in their payments.

Ecuadorian Betty Mendía assures that thousands of tenants are being kicked out of their homes. (Photo: Ramón Frisneda)

“They give advantage is to the rich”

The requests for help, in the surroundings of the governor’s office in Manhattan, were joined by Ecuadorian Betty Mendia, who recalled that during the pandemic many survived the closure of job positions. And today they live on the edge of evictions.

“The Governor must comply with us, because with the pandemic many of us are left without work, and they told us that they would help us with the rent. To this day we have the landlords who are sending us papers so that we leave our houses. Now, we have no support. They can easily kick us out,” fears the immigrant.

Meanwhile, the Mexican José Lamegos, member of NYCC, He recalled that the financial aid approved through the Fund for Excluded Workers last year was a great advance, although it was not enough to cover the needs of those who are considered an essential workforce.

“We protest so that they help us cancel gas and all the other services that have risen, and above all the rent. We have even gone to Albany, and although it seems that something has been achieved, it is still not enough. That is why we are here pressuring the Governor”José outlined in the midst of dozens of protesters.

“They give advantages to the rich so that they do not pay taxes, but to us the working class, including many of the excluded, yes we pay ‘taxes’ and they deny us help”he claimed.

The Mexican José Lamegos, activist of Communities for a Change of NY: “they give advantages to the rich”. (Photo: Ramón Frisneda)

For buildings without gas

The Housing for All coalition will put even more pressure on Hochul and state legislators so that in the next state budget they not only repeal the scheme that frees real estate developers from paying millions in taxes, but also approve a protection package for rent stabilized tenants and other initiatives that would open the door to more affordable housing for the poorest or middle income.

In addition, tenants, organizers, and community leaders are encouraging lawmakers to fight for the next budget to include the Electrical Buildings Law, which would eliminate the use of gas in new buildings under construction, drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In fact, the risks of climate change was what moved the streets this Monday at the Salvadoran Patricia Avendaño from Communities for a Change NY: “We are all here in the fight to pressure the Governor to help us and make real changes. There are many problems with climate change and if we don’t act now… what is going to happen to our country in the future? What are we going to leave our children”, she stressed.

Salvadoran Patricia Avendaño moves through the streets for actions against climate change. (Photo: Ramón Frisneda)

Affordable housing as a point of honor

According to spokespersons from the Governor’s office, “affordable housing plays an important role in the first budget that is currently being negotiated with legislators.” And that eventually it would also be put into practice if she is elected as governor this year.

In this particular petition, Hochul proposed a replacement of the 421-A plan with the 485-W programwhich makes some adjustments to the current tax exemption.

Governor Kathy Hochul in her budget ideas for next year, announced the granting of $991 million in bonds and grants to build or preserve 3,242 affordable homes, sustainable and supportive throughout the state.

Developments will drive others $379 million of private fundingwhich will create an overall investment of almost $1.4 billion to further local economic development efforts and reduce the number of homeless people.

State Assembly sources informed The newspaper that part of the Democratic caucus is pressing for the approval of the Evictions for Good Cause Law and the Aid Fund for Excluded Workers.

“Both Assemblymen and Senators have included rent relief funds in budget resolutions to help homeowners and tenants, as well as those struggling with arrears in public services accumulated during the pandemic. But today to date, nothing is clear. What does seem very unlikely is that a new fund will be approved for excluded workers,” said a spokesperson.

The fight for state changes that guarantee affordable housing began this Monday and will not pause until next Thursday. (Photo: Ramón Frisneda)

What is expected from the 2023 budget to alleviate the housing crisis?

  • A new fund for workers excluded from $3.1 billion that would benefit the undocumented workforce excluded from existing state safety nets, as a way to help devastated family finances for months of residential rent arrears.
  • Repeal the 421-A plan that exempts real estate corporations that create affordable housing and replace it with a package of laws like A-8899 that protects rent-stabilized and income-qualified tenants in 421-a buildings that are about to expire.
  • The approval of legal proposal A641 which would additionally protect income-qualified tenants in expiring 421-A buildings against inaccurate lease clauses.
  • Pass the Evictions for Good Cause bill that would protect tenants from exorbitant rent increases and being wrongfully denied a lease renewal.
  • Pass the All Electric Buildings Act requiring a ban on gas in new construction as of 2024.
  • A week of pressure:

    • 100 organizations led by Housing Justice for All, the Center for Community Alternatives (CCA), VOCAL-NY and New York Communities for Change (NYCC) will meet this Tuesday, March 29, starting at 11 am on the steps of the State Capitol in Albany to end the 421-A tax break that benefits Big Apple developers. This action is also aimed at repudiating alleged changes in the reform of the bail law.
    • 14,590 petitions signed to the governor were sent by members of the coalition New York Connecting Family urging her to allocate $21.6 million in the state budget to make communication between prisons and jails free.
    • 30 community organizations and the legal defense of the rights of immigrants demanded through a broad statement, released this Monday, that the state plan to reverse the bail reform not continue, warning that the expansion of incarceration it will increase the harm to African Americans and Latinos.