Apr 04, 2024 Press Release

The Housing Deal Low-Income New Yorkers Need

By Richard R. Buery Jr., CEO of Robin Hood and Jessica Katz, Former Chief Housing Officer for the City of New York and Founder and CEO of Silver Bullet Consulting LLC

Albany is once again racing towards the finish line of the State budget, with reports that a housing deal is imminent. This deal must include policy solutions that prioritize low-income New Yorkers.

Recent data from Robin Hood’s Poverty Tracker finds that the number of New Yorkers in poverty grew from 1.5 million to 2 million, nearly a quarter of New York City residents. Analysis by Columbia University shows that rent burdened New Yorkers in poverty aren’t just spending 35% or 40% of their income on housing, rent is usually eating up 70% of their cash income each month. Statewide, nearly 40% of all renters are rent-burdened, putting thousands at risk of eviction and homelessness.

Meeting the needs of low-income New Yorkers requires increasing the supply of affordable housing and providing more support for tenants. Contrary to popular belief, these goals are not in opposition. Both are essential to solving New York’s housing crisis. We know this because at Robin Hood, we work with both tenant advocates and housing developers every day, and have spent the past few months meeting with policymakers, housing court attorneys, researchers, and real estate developers to discuss the best path forward.

As we speak, there are players in the real estate community who support tenant protections, just as we know the tenant advocacy movement is increasingly supportive of supply solutions. No one is going to get everything they want, but we must make sure that a comprehensive deal gets rent-burdened New Yorkers what they need.

A comprehensive deal should include:

  • Create the Housing Access Voucher Program (HAVP): A new statewide rental subsidy – HAVP – would keep upstate and downstate tenants stably housed, and help New Yorkers experiencing homelessness leave shelter and move into permanent housing. Fully funded at $250 million, as the Legislature recommended, HAVP would reach 13,000 households and nearly 30,000 New Yorkers. HAVP will save lives, save the City money, and help landlords get paid in the meantime. Talk about a win-win.
  • Prioritize deeper affordability in a new 421-a: When 421a expired, housing creation in New York City ground to a halt. A new tax incentive to replace the old 421a program should prioritize the deepest levels of affordability possible, averaging at 60% of Area Median Income (AMI) in Manhattan and prime outer borough areas, which will also allow some lower AMI households to access these units. This is a substantial improvement on the prior program. Roughly 60% of renters in New York City are below 60% AMI: those are the tenants we should be prioritizing, since we know from the latest Housing and Vacancy Survey that there is almost no available housing affordable to them. A landmark $40 minimum wage agreement would also help the lowest wage construction workers.
  • Pass a Good Cause Compromise: Good Cause Eviction has been hotly debated in Albany for several years, but advocates and opponents have worked to reach a compromise on many of the most contentious details. That compromise should be targeted to protect low and middle-income tenants who need it most, exempt new construction for a period, and protect small landlords by giving them priority in trial proceedings. We also need additional funding for civil representation statewide to ensure more tenants have access to counsel and cases can move forward swiftly. As lawmakers debate exemptions, they should consider that roughly two-thirds of all unregulated units in New York City are in buildings with fewer than ten units – and we know the majority of low-income renters in the unregulated market live in these smaller buildings.
  • Remove the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) Cap: A relic of a time when New York City had too much housing and not enough commercial space, the Albany-mandated FAR cap has stymied new housing production in the city, exacerbating our housing crisis. Removing the cap, while preserving protections for historic districts, will allow us to build desperately needed housing.
  • End discriminatory insurance practices: Insurance providers have been charging more for insurance to affordable housing providers. It’s time to outlaw this discriminatory practice which increases costs for landlords who are just trying to do the right thing and house low-income New Yorkers.

The housing package doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game and lawmakers can’t walk away without a deal. Albany must protect the low-income New Yorkers at the epicenter of the affordability crisis. New York needs this. New Yorkers need this.


Crystal Cooper, Deputy Director of Communications


(212) 844-3596