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It’s taking NYC over a year to fix up vacant public housing units, report shows

The Gothamist, David Brand, September 18, 2023

New York City’s public housing agency is taking over a year to repair and rent empty apartments despite a sharp rise in homelessness across the city, according to an annual report card released by the Mayor’s Office Friday.

The average timeline for repairing a vacant New York City Housing Authority unit rose to 370 days last fiscal year, up from around 161 days the prior fiscal year and a nearly five-fold increase from the roughly 77 days it took to make fixes in the 2019 fiscal year, the latest Mayor’s Management Report shows.

The annual performance review of each agency shows a bleak outlook for NYCHA as it contends with aging infrastructure and decades of disinvestment. The agency said it had 8,074 vacant units at the end of the recent fiscal year on June 30. Around 900 units were matched with applicants set to move in, but roughly 4,200 were undergoing repairs and not yet available. The agency is holding nearly 3,000 units off the market, with some used as offices, according to the report.

NYCHA blamed the lag time on more intensive needs “due to the aging conditions in NYCHA buildings.”

The units typically require new cabinets, doors and plumbing fixes, along with lead and asbestos testing, spokesperson Michael Horgan said.

“NYCHA is a critical affordable housing resource, and our goal is to complete apartment turnovers as quickly as possible, while ensuring that New Yorkers are being placed in safe homes that have been remediated of specific hazards,” he said.


NYC’s new black market for short-term rentals: A throwback to the time before Airbnb

The gothamist, David Brand, September 13, 2023 

New York City’s week-old restrictions on Airbnb and other platforms are spawning a new black market for short-term rentals, with hosts turning to informal methods — both new and old — to attract guests and work out payment.

It’s a throwback to the days before Airbnb, which first came online in 2008, when landlords and tenants advertised units for visitors on sites like Craigslist, or relied on word of mouth to house friends of friends traveling to New York City for a long weekend.

Now, some New Yorkers who have come to rely on Airbnb and other short-term bookings sites for income, or to defer their housing costs, say they’re going back to the basics: returning to Craigslist, testing out Facebook Marketplace, joining WhatsApp group chats and using the website Houfy, which connects hosts with visitors who have to figure out payment on their own.

“New Yorkers always find a way to get around,” said Fatin Yasar, a Queens property owner who started listing a four-bedroom apartment on Craigslist last month. He said he registered the apartment with the city to provide legal short-term rentals, and has a permanent tenant living in one of the rooms.

The city’s new rules prevent Airbnb, Vrbo and other booking platforms from processing payments for stays of less than 30 days — unless a unit has been registered with the city’s Office of Special Enforcement. Short-term rentals for entire apartments are mostly illegal in New York City, rendering them ineligible for registration. Since the city began enforcing the rule last Tuesday, 15,000 short-stay Airbnb listings were removed from the site compared to last month, Gothamist reported.

But Yasar said the rules will simply give rise to a more informal, illicit market.

“It’s been existing. There was and there always will be” he said.

Long-time tenant activist Michael McKee, a member of the Coalition Against Illegal Hotels, agreed, but said the short-term accommodations remove apartments from the city’s rental market during a housing shortage.

“There’s always going to be a black market,” said McKee, who recalled family members booking a short-term rental in Hells Kitchen in the late ‘90s — a concept he was unfamiliar with at the time. “Later, this became standard operating procedure: People with suitcases on wheels looking at their phones, going to one address to get a key and then going to the address of the apartment.”

He said the Office of Special Enforcement will need to staff up to effectively respond to short-term rental complaints. As Gothamist previously reported, the agency was missing half its budgeted staff members earlier this year, threatening their ability to keep up with enforcement. The agency did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Christian Klossner, the Office of Special Enforcement’s executive director, said last month that the agency “will continue to meet its enforcement responsibilities with a focus on responding to submitted complaints of illegal occupancy.”

Already some New Yorkers are explicit about working around the city’s new short-term rental payment prohibition.

“Due to the ban on short-term rentals by NYC — I am now offering this short-term rental via other avenues such as Craigslist,” reads one $130 per night listing in the Douglaston neighborhood of northeast Queens. “I have consistently been a superhost on Airbnb, and currently have an overall rating of 4.93.”


Mayor Adams ignites controversy after saying the migrant crisis will ‘destroy’ NYC

The Gothamist, Elizabeth Kim, September 7, 2023 

Mayor Eric Adams is earning praise from Republicans and criticism from members of his own party after telling an audience of Upper West Side residents that the weekly influx of thousands of migrants “will destroy New York City.”

“I’m gonna tell you something, New Yorkers, never in my life have I had a problem that I didn’t see an ending to. I don’t see an ending to this,” Adams said during a town hall event Wednesday night. “This issue will destroy New York City. Destroy New York City.”

“Everyone is saying it is New York City’s problem. Every community in this city is going to be impacted,” he added. “Every service in this city is going to be impacted, all of us.”

Adams’ comments marked some of his most aggressive rhetoric yet on a crisis that threatens to become a potent political issue in a key election cycle. Republicans have blamed the crisis on President Joe Biden and his administration’s failure to manage the southern border.

By Thursday morning, a video clip of the mayor’s remarks had gone viral on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

“I don’t care if he’s a Democrat. This is the TRUTH,” said Vivek Ramaswamy, a Republican presidential candidate and rising star among conservatives.

Joe Borelli, a Republican city councilmember who represents Staten Island, also amplified Adams’ statements, calling the city “doomed.”

Meanwhile, some progressives — including Bill Neidhardt, a Democratic strategist who served as former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s press secretary — likened Adams’ message to that of Trump.

“Let’s drop this demagoguery and invest in welcoming asylum seekers and getting them work,” posted Councilmember Tiffany Cabán of Queens.

Read More: The Gothamist

Op-Ed: Why the federal poverty line doesn’t begin to tell the story of poverty in the U.S.

LA Times, Celine-Marie Pascale, September 24, 2021

Recently released Census Bureau data show that more than 37 million people in America lived at or below the federal poverty line in 2020. That’s 11.4% of the population, and a full percentage point higher than what it was in 2019. 

But the federal poverty line doesn’t begin to tell the story of poverty in the U.S.

Half of U.S. families struggle to make ends meet. They are part of what I call the “uncounted majority,” people who have trouble paying basic bills even though their incomes aren’t low enough to meet the official federal poverty threshold — currently $26,200 for a family of four or $12,760 for an individual.

I’ve witnessed this struggle firsthand while researching low-income communities over the last four years. In cities and towns from California to Kentucky, I met hundreds of working people — from a mix of racial backgrounds — whose real-life experiences highlight the arbitrariness of, and the problems with, the federal poverty line.

People such as Angel Perez, who lives in Oakland and works two part-time jobs for a local school district and helps his father paint houses — and earns less than $16,000 a year. Perez counts himself lucky to be able to live with his father. Otherwise, he would be among Oakland’s more than 4,000 unhoused people.

In southeast Ohio, I commonly met people who worked multiple jobs and who still found it difficult to pay their bills. Michael Chase was one of them. Between two jobs, he works 45 to 60 hours a week and brings home just under $16,000 a year. Neither job comes with health insurance, sick leave or vacation time. He shares an apartment with three roommates — a situation he finds stressful — and still worries at times about making rent.

Yet Chase doesn’t consider himself to be poor. Perhaps more important, neither does the government. In 2020, he was well above the federal poverty line for a single person.

Waiting tables in eastern Kentucky, Jenna Terry earns a pretax income of about $20,000. She lives with her boyfriend, Doug, a car salesman who brings in another $20,000. Neither of their employers offer sick time, vacation or health insurance. The couple have a young daughter, and the $40,000 they make together is nearly double the federal poverty line for a family of three.

Even so, they had trouble paying their monthly bills, which included a high-interest car loan. To reliably cover basic expenses, Terry’s family would need an income of $53,818, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Read More: LA Times

 LABOR How Housing Activists and Unions Found Common Ground in California

VOX, Rachel M. Cohen, August 21, 2023

One of the biggest changes in state politics in years, explained.

Over the last decade, whenever California lawmakers tried to pass new legislation aimed at boosting the state’s alarmingly low housing stock, they’d come face to face with a politically powerful barrier: organized labor.

It wasn’t that unions wanted no new housing in California, but their top priority was ensuring that any new units would be built with unionized workers, and that the nearly half a million members represented by the State Building and Construction Trades Council, or “the Trades” as it’s locally known, would be well positioned to find good jobs in the future. Keenly aware of how sharply industry standards have declined in parts of the country with less union power, and still reeling from job losses during the last recession, the Trades have assertively fought bills they deemed threatening to their way of life.

In the Democratic and proudly pro-labor state, opposition from the Trades has often been sufficient to kill housing bills. Liberal lawmakers have been sympathetic to union arguments that the state’s housing crisis will not be solved by driving construction workers into poverty themselves. Sometimes unions would object to bills that failed to require certain wage standards, or bills that didn’t require enough union workers to do the jobs. And when they’ve objected, labor leaders have not been hesitant to flex their political muscle, running attack ads against bill sponsors and donating tens of millions of dollars to political campaigns.

Read More: VOX

NYC’s eviction hotspots: Tracking the 10K removals since moratorium ended

The Gothamist, Neil Mehta, David Brand, August 10, 2023

Evictions take a heavy toll on individuals and families, along with broader communities in a city already struggling to house tens of thousands of low-income and homeless people.

After a pandemic-spurred moratorium on evictions ended last January, certain sections of the city are emerging as eviction hot spots, where property owners ranging from large firms with thousands of units, to small landlords with a single residence are successfully removing tenants.

Usually, people are evicted because they owe back rent. Other times, landlords seek to evict tenants whose leases expired. It could be because they are selling the building, they believe they can earn more from a new occupant or they simply want the existing residents out.

Regardless of the situation, thousands of evictions have a systemic impact on a city and region facing record-high rents and a deepening affordability crisis.

Read More: The Gothamist

NYCHA Residents in Chelsea Resist Demolition Plan That Could Displace Them

INDYPENDENT, Elsie Carson-Holt, August 19, 2023 

The 4,500 tenants at New York City’s Housing Authority’s Fulton and Chelsea-Elliott Houses face the recent announcement that their buildings will be demolished and rebuilt by The Related Companies and Essence Realty.

Jackie Lara describes coming to the Fulton Houses as “her best Christmas present.” She and her children moved out of a shelter into Fulton Houses, a public-housing development in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, just after New Years Eve in 2002. 

“My application [for public housing] came in after a year and a half of being in the shelter,” Lara says. “And I remember when they called me to come and see this apartment. I planted my seed here. This is my home.” 

Celines Mirandas is of the same mind. Her family has lived in the Chelsea-Elliott complex, about half a mile away, since 1975. “My mother  is at an age where she gets disoriented a lot. And she doesn’t know which direction to go … but when she’s in her neighborhood, she knows where she’s at. She knows it’s our home.” 


Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing: The Fellowship Of Accompaniment

Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing, Marc Greenberg, August 18, 2023

“Whoever saves a single life is considered by scripture to have saved the whole world.”The Hebrew Talmud 

I am writing to provide an update on one of the Interfaith Assembly’s newest initiatives — The Fellowship of Accompaniment — to help people with housing vouchers to identify, secure and sustain their own housing — and also, to share with you news about “A City of Yes“, a very exciting process that the city is embarking upon that could result in a significant increase of affordable housing in the years to come.

Fellowship updates 

As I shared last month, the Interfaith Assembly has launched an effort to assist New Yorkers with housing vouchers to secure and sustain housing by matching them with a partner who will assist them in making the transition from homelessness to housing — as we identify landlords who will be more willing to accept voucher holders who are part of a support system. Click here for a full description of the Fellowship.

To view all or part of a 90 minute video of the July 17th Fellowship Orientationworkshop that included Government representatives, Non-Profit and faith-based agencies, Voucher holders themselves, real estate community representatives, and concerned members of the community, please click here.

We are planning to assemble our first cohort of between 8 and 10 voucher holders “Fellows” with their “partners” in mid-September and begin the process of introducing them to supportive landlords – and we are seeking additional Fellows and partners who want to be part of this cohort or the next one.

If you or a member of your network would like to become a Fellowship “Partner” or if you or someone you know has been approved for a voucher (has a shopping letter) and would be interested in becoming a “fellow” I invite you to download, complete our Partner/Volunteer Interest form or our Fellow (Voucher holder) interest intake form and return it to the Assembly at Fellowship@iahh.org so we can be in touch. (Be sure click “enable editing” at the top of the document after downloading it.) After we have received the interest form, we will reach out to schedule a zoom or phone conversation to discuss the applicant’s interest in participation, and to answer any questions and invite you or a member of your network to join the Mid-September zoom of the first Fellowship cohort.


Sky-High US Housing Costs Fuel Record Surge in Homelessness

COMMON DREAMS, Jake Johnson, August 16, 2023

“When rents skyrocket amidst a severe shortage of affordable housing and a shredded safety net, more people become homeless. It really is that simple—and preventable.”

Persistently high housing costs and the end of pandemic-era relief programs have fueled a sharp increase in homelessness in the U.S. this year, according to an analysis published Monday by The Wall Street Journal.

The Journal reported that homelessness nationwide—from Denver to New Orleans to New York City—is up 11% so far this year compared to 2022, when more than 582,000 people experienced homelessness.

If this year’s increase holds, the Journal noted, it would mark the largest jump since 2007, the year the U.S. government began tracking comparable data.

“We and others have repeatedly predicted this increase in homelessness,” Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), wrote in response to the new figures. “When rents skyrocket amidst a severe shortage of affordable housing and a shredded safety net, more people become homeless. It really is that simple—and preventable.”

NLIHC observed in a June report that “during the pandemic, housing advocates and impacted people helped bring about the enactment of unprecedented policy measures, including $46 billion in emergency rental assistance (ERA) and a national eviction moratorium, that reduced suffering for millions of households.”

“Additionally, economic impact payments, increases to unemployment insurance and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, and childcare tax credits helped keep low- and middle-income renters afloat,” the report added. “Yet now that emergency resources are being depleted and many of these measures phased out, low-income renters are once again facing high rents and increased housing instability, with eviction filing rates reaching or surpassing pre-pandemic levels… and homelessness increasing in many communities.”

“The Covid relief funds provided a buffer. We’re seeing what happens when those resources aren’t available.”

As pandemic relief measures and renter protections faded in 2021 and last year, evictions surged and housing costs continued to rise across the country, with the median national rent surpassing $2,000 a month for the first time.

The Government Accountability Office has estimated that a $100 increase in the median U.S. rent is associated with a 9% increase in homelessness.


‘Coliving’ Landlords Turned $800 Rent-Stabilized Apartments into $7,000 Suites. Now Tenants Are Pushing Back.

The City, SAM RABIYAHSUHAIL BHAT  August 15, 2023

Outpost Club promises hassle-free, low-commitment entree into Bushwick, Ridgewood and other trendy neighborhoods. Some residents are on rent strike and demanding their apartments get their regulated status restored.

The “coliving” company Outpost Club lures would-be residents to its properties with a dreamy vision of NYC living coveted by young transplants. In some of the city’s trendiest neighborhoods, you can enjoy luxury amenities with a global “community” of professionals, all while taking advantage of special “rental financing solutions” and speedy move-ins for as little as one month into rooms with shared common areas. 

“Experience what feels like a beautiful celebration of culture just walking down the street, listening to the languages being spoken while deciding which food cart to stop at,” reads the listing for one residence, the “Maison on Suydam” in Bushwick. 

Beneath the veneer, landlords that Outpost works with are exploiting one of the few remaining ways available to remove apartments from New York’s rent-stabilization system, after a 2019 law prohibited deregulation in all but a few instances.

By clearing out and then renovating buildings, owners can assert they have performed “substantial rehabilitation” and claim the right to deregulate the apartments. Outpost then rents them out room by room on the owners’ behalf. 

THE CITY found a history of rent regulation in 11 of Outpost’s 30 buildings. 

Outpost Club Buildings Operate Mostly in Gentrifying Neighborhoods

Locations and rent regulation history of all properties advertised by Outpost Club Co-Living on their website