Scott Stringer Pushes de Blasio on Cheaper Affordable Housing

Scott Stringer. (Photo:Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)

Scott Stringer. (Photo:Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)

City Comptroller Scott Stringer is calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to prioritize affordable housing for the city’s lowest-income residents, in light of a new study commissioned by his office.

The study, set to be released later today, found the city’s median rent rose a whopping 75 percent from 2000 to 2012–nearly double the rate of the rest of the nation. At the same time residents’ real incomes have declined.

The impact has been especially severe for those on the bottom rung of the income ladder. The study found that, over the twelve-year-span, nearly 360,000 apartments renting for $1,000 a month or less disappeared. As a result, those earning between $20,000 and $40,000 a year saw the proportion of their incomes paid to rent rise from one-third in 2000 to 41 percent in 2012, it found.

“This is chilling and eye-opening in the sense that we really have an affordable housing crunch that goes beyond any number that we could pull out of a hat and say, ‘If we can create this much we’ll be fine,’” said Mr. Stringer in an interview with the Observer Tuesday.

Mr. Stringer said the report was meant to take a snapshot of the city’s housing situation after 12 years of investments by the Bloomberg administration and before Mr. de Blasio’s efforts begin to shape the landscape.

Mr. de Blasio is planning to release a comprehensive plan early next month to build and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing–one of the centerpieces of his election agenda.

Mr. de Blasio has repeatedly stressed that his aim is to create affordable housing that “reaches through the whole income spectrum.”

“Folks who make the least, up through folks we would consider working class, and middle class. We need everyone to have an opportunity,” he said in his 100-day speech.

Mr. Stringer, who emerged as one of the few Democrats willing to criticize the mayor in the first weeks of his term, said the positions weren’t in opposition.

“I agree with the mayor that any plan has to have a mix and the proper asset allocations because we have to build middle-income housing and keep the middle class here,” he said. “We need housing for young entrepreneurs who are going to come here and students. The reason we focused on this particular population a little bit more is because … that’s the housing that is the most difficult to construct, between $20,000 and $40,000. And that’s the population that’s one step away from homelessness.”

Mr. Stringer said he’d had “a number of meetings” with de Blasio officials, including the new homeless commissioner, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, and the mayor himself to discuss his priorities.

“We all have to work collaboratively to come up with a plan that’s going to meet the needs of new Yorkers,” he said.

In addition to his focus on low-income housing, Mr. Stringer wants to see more investments in NYCHA, find new ways to address the rising homelessness crisis, see more done to address the needs of the elderly and disabled, and convince Albany lawmakers to provide better protections for existing affordable housing stock.

The effort wouldn’t be easy, he said, describing his frustrations at learning that the many billions invested by the previous administration to build and preserve 165,000 units over 12 years “just didn’t move the needle.”

“This is going to be a very, very tough road ahead,” he said.