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NYC celebrates rent control's massive success!

How's it go? If you impose rent control, developers won't build it and they won't come? No, if you don't build it there's no housing and lots of baseball? WTF?

Come to think of it, why stop at rent control? Why not have the government decide what we pay for food, automobiles and Apple computers! Oh, sorry, Trotsky already tried that.

A Housing Crisis Has More Politicians Saying Yes to Big Real Estate

Lawmakers on the left are fierce critics of the real estate industry. But some are embracing new housing development, even if it’s not fully affordable.

By Mihir Zaveri, NY Times

Oct. 16, 2022, 3:00 a.m. ET

For years, elected officials from across the political spectrum in New York City have scored points by attacking a common enemy: Real estate developers.

Politicians routinely quashed projects. Some officials argued they were protecting a neighborhood’s character and property values. Others said they were fighting corporate greed. On Friday, a left-leaning City Council member, Julie Won, said she would oppose a big new project in her Queens district, calling it a “gentrification accelerator.”

But a housing shortage and affordability crisis may be changing the political calculus for some progressives who have traditionally been among the most fervent critics of the real estate industry.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who opposed the construction of an Amazon campus near her district, said recently that she would support local officials who make way for more housing, and a number of City Council members on the left have embraced new developments, even in cases where most of the units would not be affordable for working-class New Yorkers.

Tiffany Cabán, a democratic socialist councilwoman from Queens, recently voted for a project that was slated to bring more than 1,300 apartments to a vacant waterfront lot in her district. A quarter of the units will rent at below market rates.

Ms. Cabán said she would prefer public housing or housing owned by local residents, but “it’s not as simple or easy as 100 percent affordable or nothing.” She said not approving the project, known as Halletts North, would risk letting the lot languish as a truck depot or parking lot for delivery vehicles, which she said was “wholly irresponsible, especially when we have a housing crisis.”

In New York politics, the real estate lobby has long been an influential force. Developers are major political donors, and have found a receptive mayor in Eric Adams. The industry itself remains lucrative; new skyscrapers rise across the city in places where the rules permit denser development.

But members of the City Council wield a lot of power in determining the fate of new projects, with considerations varying by neighborhood. They often oppose new development unless benefits, like parks or community space, are included, sometimes shutting projects down altogether if they do not get the concessions they want for their communities.

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Many housing advocates and more moderate Democrats, including President Biden and Mayor Adams, have called for a broad effort to build more housing as people nationwide struggle with homelessness and affording decent homes.

Leaders in other parts of the country, like Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, have more aggressively put in place policies to encourage the construction of housing and overcome resistance from local officials and activists.

The openness to more development among some in left-leaning circles in New York may signify that the political momentum behind the pro-housing movement is growing and may foreshadow significant changes to the city’s landscape.

There is a shortage of homes available to a wide range of income levels, though the problem is most acute for lower-income New Yorkers. The New York metropolitan area needed more than 340,000 additional homes in 2019, according to a May estimate from Up for Growth, a Washington policy and research group.

The vacancy rate for apartments renting below the citywide median of $1,500 is less than 1 percent, while tight supply has helped send the typical asking rent on a market-rate apartment in Manhattan soaring past $4,000, according to the brokerage firm Douglas Elliman.

More than half of the city’s tenants spend more than a third of their income on rent. The population in the city’s main homeless shelter system broke a record last week, fueled partially by migrants coming to the city but also by a spike in locals seeking shelter.

“If we postpone the types of actions and investments and courage that is needed to address our housing crisis, we’re not just undermining the well-being of families, but we’re undermining the recovery of our economy and long-term recovery as a city,” said Maria Torres-Springer, deputy mayor for economic and work force development.


An industrial section of Brooklyn will become residential after it is rezoned.

An industrial section of Brooklyn will become residential after it is rezoned.Credit...Dave Sanders for The New York Times

In central Brooklyn, Councilwoman Crystal Hudson, a member of the progressive caucus who has called the city a “developer’s playground,” cast a vote earlier this year to support two 17-story towers with more than 400 apartments in Prospect Heights, a neighborhood that has seen rapid gentrification. Previously, she shut the project down when she took office in January, saying she had not had time to review the proposal and that she worried about gentrification and other affects on the community.

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The original proposal had 25 percent of the units renting at below market rates, Ms. Hudson said. She said she asked for the developer to include 50 percent of the units at those rates, but settled on 35 percent.

“We all can only fight for the best project possible,” she said.

Ms. Hudson is also working with city officials and residents on a broader plan she hopes will be completed next year to redevelop the surrounding area.

She said the new membership of the City Council, considered among the most left-leaning in recent memory, was trying to “marry” the needs of the city with those of the district.

The City Council last week approved a project in the Throgs Neck neighborhood of the Bronx that would add almost 350 homes — including almost half that would rent at below market rates — to an area with a relatively high share of single-family homes.

The plan met fierce pushback from some members of the community and initial opposition from Councilwoman Marjorie Velázquez, also a member of the progressive caucus.

But Ms. Velázquez changed her stance and voted in favor of the project after the developer added affordable units for seniors and it earned the support of a trade union, the mayor and the City Council speaker. A spokeswoman for Ms. Velázquez said she was unavailable for comment.

Rhetoric more friendly to new development has also come from state politicians. Jabari Brisport, a Brooklyn state senator and democratic socialist, announced last month on Twitter that he now believed that “the construction of market rate housing does not raise nearby rents” after reading a research paper on the effect of housing supply, even as he criticized developers as “greedy speculators.”

“I really do think things are shifting,” said Annemarie Gray, a former land-use adviser for the city who is now the executive director of Open New York, a pro-housing group. “Housing politics both in the city and the country are changing.”

While there is near consensus on the need for more homes, the debate over how to make them affordable and whether the real estate industry should play a central role remains fraught.

A project that would have brought more than 900 new apartments to Harlem died this spring after the local council member said the apartments were not affordable enough. Ms. Won, the Queens councilwoman, has asked the developer of the project in her district to include significantly more affordable units before she can support it, leaving its fate in limbo.

“I have to protect the interests of my residents,” she said.

The city, which is dealing with staffing shortages in the agencies that oversee investments in housing, has fallen far short of its goal of subsidizing the construction of 25,000 affordable homes in the past year. The range of proposals also includes more expansive rent regulation, new forms of public housing, renewed tax credits for developers and better rental assistance programs.

Those who support more private development acknowledge that even if local officials begin to greenlight more projects, they may only amount to a few thousand new homes, far short of the vast need in New York City.


In Astoria, Queens, a new residential development, Halletts North, will bring more than a thousand apartments to mostly vacant land.

In Astoria, Queens, a new residential development, Halletts North, will bring more than a thousand apartments to mostly vacant land.Credit...Dave Sanders for The New York Times

Broader neighborhood rezoning efforts that could make way for a larger number of new homes have yet to take shape, though Ms. Torres-Springer noted that the city is pursuing efforts in Ms. Hudson’s district and in the South Bronx, and said more would be announced.

David Lombino, a managing director at Two Trees Management, a development firm, said it was “encouraging” to see projects like those in Ms. Velázquez’s and Ms. Cabán’s districts move forward.

“Do I think it’s going to solve the crisis? No,” he said. “I think supply is needed on such a scale and I think folks aren’t ready to see the scale that’s required to fix the supply problem.”

There can still be a political cost to supporting new developments that even a subset of current constituents oppose. Many housing activists around the city argue that allowing more housing without greater concessions to affordability and improving neighborhoods amounts to placing the interests of private developers over city residents.

Doreen Mohammed, who lives near the Halletts North development site that Ms. Cabán supports, said she felt neighbors had not been consulted before the project was approved.

Ms. Mohammed, a member of the community board that includes the development site, said that many of the people who lived around the area would not be able to afford the homes that would be built.

She said she had hoped that because Ms. Cabán had been endorsed by Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and identified as a socialist, that she would “not settle for these crumbs and being in bed with developers.” Ms. Mohammed said she also opposed the project in Ms. Won’s district.

“That’s not socialism, that’s not progressive, that’s not community-driven,” she said.

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