Housing Preservations & Development

Council Races

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In Depth: Housing Preservations & Development (HPD)

City Council loves to support preserving NYC’s affordable co-ops (until they’re reminded that profiting from housing speculation is the American Dream). On Friday, City Limits reported on the controversy surrounding a Housing Preservations & Development (HPD) proposal to increase regulation and oversight over the 1,000+ low-income co-ops, also known as HDFCs, across the city. City council was initially publicly supportive of increasing regulation in exchange for offering the co-ops 100% property tax exemption, but has stepped back from that position in the face of strong opposition from a group of anti-regulation shareholders.

Although the HDFC program since its inception was explicitly intended to provide permanently affordable housing for low-income households, it has suffered from lack of oversight, technical assistance, and enforcement of the affordability requirements – resulting in a high rate of co-ops in financial distress and an increasing frequency of sales prices that seem suspiciously high given the alleged income restrictions. Last week, the Manhattan Delegation of City Council released a letter expressing their concerns that the new resale restrictions in HPD’s proposal will limit shareholders’s ability to fully capitalize on their own apartment (duhhh). By focusing on the issue of resale profits, the Councilmembers are clearly responding to the concerns of shareholders who are upset that they could face only limited returns on their affordable, subsidized apartments that have had income restrictions since the beginning.

Why this matters: resident-controlled, limited-equity co-ops represent a successful model for taking housing out of the speculative market. By removing landlord profit from the equation, co-ops are able to keep their monthly fees far below average rents in NYC, and with proper regulation are expected to be sold at below-market rates to benefit future low-income households. We need public support for creating MORE co-ops (either on their own or on Community Land Trusts), but only if HPD and City Council are willing to stand by the idea of permanent affordability, even if it means restricting profit for individuals.  (By Samantha Kattan (full disclosure: I am quoted in the City Limits article as being in support of more regulation))

Elsewhere

In 2011, a community organization called New Haven Rising (NHR) took control of their local Board of Alders away from the establishment Democrats. While NHR is not an explicitly socialist organization, their mission statement is at least Bernie level socialism. This essay from Dissent Magazine does a fantastic job of outlining how their grassroots efforts managed to be so successful and it comes down to a diverse coalition of groups and alliances.

NHS understood that elected officials could only go so far without a base that stayed engaged between elections. The Unidad Latina en Accion (ULA) a group formed by immigrants that regularly organizes protests and has garnered some big wins for local labor through a unique process they developed.

It serves as a reminder to the DSA to maintain the alliances in place with other organizations and to keep an eye open for other potential relationships that could make us stronger.

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