Alyssa Katz, Deputy Editor at The City; Alejandra Nasser Director of Leadership Development Programs at Flatbush Tenant Coalition, WNYC’s Kai Wright, Host and managing editor of The Stakes joined Deputy Mayor for Housing Vicki Been to discuss NYC’s housing challenges and practical solutions.
BROOKLYN, NY — On May 14, Public Agenda – a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and public engagement organization – convened a policy panel discussion, open to the public, that explored New York City’s housing challenges and practical solutions. The session was supported by TD Bank and hosted at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights.
The panel, moderated by Alyssa Katz, Deputy Editor at The City, featured Deputy Mayor for Housing Vicki Been, Alejandra Nasser Director of Leadership Development Programs at Flatbush Tenant Coalition (FTC) and WNYC’s Kai Wright, host and managing editor of the podcast The Stakes.
“Like many economically powerful cities, New York faces a crisis of housing affordability that threatens to undermine the very diversity that has fueled its success,” says Will Friedman, president of Public Agenda. “The public can accelerate or obstruct progress on this difficult challenge and our goal here is to foster a deeper understanding of potential solutions.”
“Far too often, for the one-third of New Yorkers who spend more than half of income on rent, housing overtakes spending on other household needs,” says Katz. “We’re having this conversation in a hot spot for the affordable housing crisis and at a difficult time, of high pressure and fear and disruption and pain but also possibilities for improvement, such as strengthening of New York’s rent laws by the state Legislature.”
“Addressing the affordability crisis is about more than building new housing – we must lower housing costs, increase wages, and address the city’s legacy of segregation. That means investing in communities that are experiencing increases in poverty and ensuring neighborhoods across the city offer housing for a range of incomes, ” says Been, who was appointed as Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development of New York City in April 2019. Been also served as Faculty Director of NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy and Commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
“Housing is a fundamental right,” says Nasser, “and what that looks like is that every single person has the same opportunity to equal housing. It’s not just about affordability; it’s also about housing that is safe, clean and hospitable for folks.”
In her current role as director of leadership development programs at FTC, Nasser oversees all programs pertaining to the leadership development of the Coalition membership, which extends across tenant rights and housing policy, political education, and intergenerational movement building.
“Every single day we see the fear people have about losing their housing but we also look at what exactly they have to lose. They’re holding on to crumbling apartments and fighting hard because they know that the alternative is having nowhere to go.”
“Housing instability echoes into all aspects of our lives,” says Wright, who hosted There Goes the Neighborhood, a podcast on affordable housing and gentrification in Brooklyn. “When housing is in crisis, it’s difficult for it not to be felt throughout an entire community.
“You can’t understand the housing crunch in our communities without thinking about the greater economic trends taking place in the city.”
Like many other regions across the United States, New York City is in the midst of a housing crisis, in which one-third of the city’s residents spend more than half of their income on housing costs. While the housing crisis has impacted residents all over, Brooklyn has been hit particularly hard. Out of the five boroughs, rent increased the most in Brooklyn and Manhattan between 2006 and 2016.
Next month, New York’s rent regulation laws are set to expire, opening the door for hundreds of thousands of rent-stabilized apartments to increase in rent. There are a currently nine bills in the Senate and the Assembly that would close loopholes impacting rent-stabilized units and expand protections for unregulated tenant households in New York City.
Public Agenda works to strengthen democracy and expand opportunity in America by fostering thoughtful public opinion, meaningful public participation, and responsive public institutions. Founded in 1975 by the social scientist and public opinion research pioneer Dan Yankelovich and soon-to-be secretary of state Cyrus Vance, Public Agenda is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research and public engagement organization. Find Public Agenda online at PublicAgenda.org, on Facebook at facebook.com/PublicAgenda and on Twitter at @PublicAgenda.