As NYC rents soar, Eric Adams is under the pressure of the housing crisis

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Shortly after becoming mayor of New York City, Eric Adams said he would implement a “comprehensive housing plan” within weeks to address rising housing costs and homelessness that have made the city a symbol of a growing national crisis.

But four months later, Mr. Adams is yet to deliver on promises he made during his campaign and has recalled at least one, prompting criticism for how strongly he prioritizes a top issue for many New Yorkers.

Details of the plan are still being worked out ahead of an expected release next month. It will come as rising rents and the safety nets of the end of the pandemic era put pressure on the new administration to aggressively tackle a seemingly unsolvable set of problems Mr Adams inherited and which are having a huge impact on the economy and social fabric of the city have.

“I think what we’re seeing now with rents going up was really unimaginable just a few years ago,” said Rachel Fee, executive director of the New York Housing Conference, a nonprofit group that was listed as a contributor to a housing committee on Mr. adams “That must be a top issue for the mayor. I think City Hall needs to address this more urgently.”

Members of the city council, which is negotiating the budget with the mayor, have also called for more spending on building and maintaining affordable housing after Mr Adams proposed only a modest increase in spending over the next few years in his capital’s previous government budget plan.

At a rally on the steps of City Hall last week, Pierina Sanchez, the chair of the city council’s housing committee, said, “New York City needs to treat the affordable housing crisis, the housing crisis, like problem #1.”

Adrienne Adams, the city council spokeswoman, reiterated calls for greater investment in a state of the city address last weekend.

The mayor has defended his pace, even as a staff shortage in the housing preservation and development department has hampered the city’s ability to move forward with affordable housing projects.

“I know it feels like I’ve been mayor for five years, but I’ve been here for five months,” Mr. Adams said at a news conference last Friday. “I inherited a broken city with broken systems. We can either patch these broken systems or go to the core and fix them.”

But he added: “There is no rush to do this. We have to do it right.”

In New York City, about a third of renters are “heavy rent-burdened,” meaning they spend more than 50 percent of their income on rent, according to a survey of the city’s housing stock released last week.

According to the Coalition for the Homeless, more than 48,000 people slept in shelters in New York City each night in March, with the number of single adults in shelters steadily increasing in recent years.

The pandemic exacerbated many of these problems as tens of thousands of people struggled to afford rent or mortgage payments and sought government assistance.

Many places across the country are struggling with housing affordability and it is increasingly recognized that a major cause is the lack of available housing.

This week, President Biden announced a new plan to address the housing crisis that would, among other things, encourage reform of zoning laws to allow for more density.

The city’s affordability crisis has been underscored more than once in recent weeks. A report by brokerage firm Douglas Elliman released this month showed that rents continue to rise in some parts of the city: In Manhattan, for example, the average effective rent was $3,870 in April 2022, more than 38 percent higher than a year earlier highest level ever recorded.

The city’s housing inventory survey underscored a long-standing trend of declining affordability: Between 2017 and 2021, New York City lost nearly 100,000 units renting for less than $1,500 a month, while adding 107,000 units renting for at least $2,300 a month. dollars per month were rented .

A panel effectively controlled by the mayor recently voted to support some of the biggest rent increases in nearly a decade for rent-stabilized homes — home to more than two million people, many of whom have lower incomes. Evictions are slowly increasing after the government’s pandemic moratorium expired in January.

The upcoming housing plan will likely include provisions to reduce homelessness, improve public housing conditions and increase homeownership opportunities for middle- and low-income New Yorkers, according to housing officials.

During his campaign, Mr. Adams made solving the housing crisis and shortage a top priority.

He said he will double the city’s capital investment in housing, including public housing construction and the maintenance and development of affordable housing, to $4 billion a year, roughly double the previous administration’s spending.

Instead, Mr. Adams has called for spending an average of $500 million more each year for the next 10 years.

Mr Adams also pledged to reform zoning rules that prevent many neighborhoods from constructing taller buildings, particularly in wealthier neighborhoods – which he called “sacred cows” – which have resisted redevelopment.

He specifically pointed to blocks in one part of Manhattan — from 14th Street to 42nd Street and between Park and Ninth Avenue — as targets for rezoning.

Mr Adams didn’t answer questions last week about whether that would still be part of the housing plan. And even when a plan becomes final, it’s not clear if his housing agency has enough staff to carry it out.

In May, Adolfo Carrión, the city’s housing commissioner, said staffing remains “one of the biggest challenges we face”.

“We have a shortage of project managers,” Mr. Carrión said during his City Council hearing. “We have a shortage of attorneys to close these deals.”

The department’s legal team that deals with real estate transactions has had a steady exodus of transaction attorneys and is now missing at least three of five overseeing attorneys — an assistant attorney general and two assistant assistant attorneys general, according to two housing officials — who provide the department with the necessary legal expertise.

The city has funded 77 new positions in the department, but it’s not clear how quickly the city can fill them or how much impact they will have. Mr Carrión noted that while the agency’s housing inspector corps has the budget for nearly 470 inspectors, it is short of more than 140.

The staffing situation is so dire that the department has posted a notice on its website warning some city subsidy applicants that it will take “up to a year” due to “limited staffing and a significant backlog of projects.” assign a project manager.

The mayor did not respond to questions about the impact of the shortage.

Previous administrations also took several months or more to develop housing plans. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg released his housing plan in December of his first year in office, and while he is credited with helping to clean up the city and secure affordable housing, critics also blame his plans for allowing displacement and inequality.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who made housing a core part of his campaign, released a housing plan about five months after taking office, which eventually evolved into a goal of building or maintaining 300,000 affordable homes by 2026.

While this represented a significant increase in investment compared to previous governments, the plan has been criticized for focusing too much on numerical targets and too little on affordability for low-income families.

Charles Lutvak, a spokesman for Mr Adams, said the housing plan would “replace counterproductive metrics with real results”.

The plan, which the city says will be formulated with input from people who have experienced homelessness and public housing residents, will focus on measuring how quickly people can get into affordable housing, as well as the total number of units , which are occupied during a certain period of time. This was announced by the mayor’s office.

“It doesn’t come out on day one,” Moses Gates, the vice president of housing and neighborhood planning at the Regional Plan Association, a nonprofit group, said of the housing plan. “It takes collaboration and real nose-to-grind work, and I think it’s just beginning in this administration.”

Some New Yorkers believe Mr. Adams needs to act faster.

Beverly Rivers, 66, has lived in a fixed-rent unit in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn for 25 years, and her $1,009 rent already exceeds money she receives from disability payments, her only income.

Each rent increase will add to the more than $8,000 she owes her landlord, who sued for eviction last month.

Ms Rivers said she voted for Mr Adams because she believed he would fight for poor people, but was disappointed he did not support a rent freeze or payback.

“He didn’t do anything for us,” she said. “He’s not for us.”

Matthew Hague contributed reporting.

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