• De Blasio was limited to stuff like shaming bad landlords in his capacity as public advocate, but he has a quite detailed housing plan for his mayoral campaign, which is broadly similar to a plan his public advocate’s office released. He is a supporter of rent control. “As mayor, he will fight to retake control of rent rules from Albany, so we can make our own decisions again,” he writes in the plan. “Bill de Blasio will also support tenants fighting to maintain the affordability of their homes through organizing efforts in complexes like Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village, Independence Plaza, and Riverton.” He wants to freeze rents at all rent stabilized apartments
Besides that, his strategy relies heavily on “inclusive zoning,” a practice wherein developers are obliged to set aside a portion of housing to low-income families, to be sold at below-market rates; it basically functions as a tax on housing development with proceeds directed to low-income households. De Blasio wants to rely on that and his other proposals to create or preserve 200,000 affordable units. Inclusionary zoning is a good way to help families stay put in the face of gentrification, if that’s a priority the city wants to have, but the policy has many of the downsides that price ceilings usually have. Plus inclusionary zoning only works if low-income residents can get mortgages. As Lydia has explained, that often isn’t the case, at least for condos.
De Blasio also wants to apply the same tax to big vacant lots as to commercial properties, which reflects a pretty longstanding preference economists have for land taxes rather than property taxes. He has a long record of supporting increased density, including backing the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, supporting “granny flats”, and easier transference of development rights within neighborhoods. He supports making Section 8 vouchers available to homeless families, a move Bloomberg has opposed as unfeasible.
• Quinn is, if anything, even fonder of inclusionary zoning than de Blasio. She wants to create 40,000 middle-class housing units over 10 years, create or preserve 80,000 units, freeze rents at all rent-stabilized apartments, convert many more market-rate apartments to below-market rate, and make units “permanently affordable.” “Currently the affordability requirements for most subsidized apartments expire after 20 or 30 years, which means residents may be priced out of their homes and the middle class gets priced out of entire neighborhoods,” her Web site explains. “Chris will work with her colleagues in Albany to pass a Permanent Affordability Act giving us a new financing tool that will allow us to keep units affordable indefinitely.”
Again, that’s a really good policy for those who can get the apartments in question, and is an effective way to fight gentrification, but it drives up other costs and prevents new people from moving to New York. “That’s great for people who win affordable housing lotteries and get below-market rate rents,” as Josh Barro says. “But the set-asides also reduce the returns to developers, which reduces the amount of housing stock that gets built, which drives up market rents for everybody else.” That’s what seems to have happened under Boston’s inclusionary zoning law.
• Thompson sees Quinn’s 80,000 affordable housing units created or preserved and raises her another 40,000, which still puts him under de Blasio’s 200,000-unit pledge. He wants to use available federal and state subsidies to fund 50,000, get another 50,000 by organizing new loan agreements with existing landlords, and get the final 20,000 by using vacant properties controlled by the government. Like de Blasio, he wants to return control of rent restrictions to the city. He wants to “preserve rent-stabilized, rent-controlled, and Mitchell-Lama housing,” the latter being a kind of housing subsidy in New York State. When he was the Democratic nominee in 2009, he bashed Bloomberg for not taking rent control seriously enough, saying, “Mike Bloomberg’s rent-stabilization board, his guidelines board, that continues to increase rents, isn’t there for tenants — they’re there for the landlords.”
• Lhota has endorsed a plan by the group Housing First that cost $8 billion total, including $356 million in additional annual spending by the city to create or preserve 150,000 affordable housing units; 60,000 of those would be new units and 136,250 of the 150,000 would be for low-income families. That plan would involve expanded inclusionary zoning — as called for by the other candidates — along with Section 8 funding for the homeless, reduced parking requirements, and a bonus for denser building. It’s a bit different in the latter two respects than the Democratic candidates’ proposal, but it’s broadly similar. Lhota has also mused about using post office buildings as affordable housing as demand for snail mail services flags.
• Catsimatidis has, like Lhota, endorsed the Housing First plan.