Quinn Tackles Affordable Housing and Maintenance Problems In State of the City Address

Fixing homes from the bully pulpit. (William Alatriste/City Council)

In between heavy dollops of sentiment, Christine Quinn cemented some specific plans to combat the affordable housing problem and the facilitation of upgrading the City’s landlord maintenance code in her State of the City address last week.

Ms. Quinn outlined how the Housing Preservation and Development Department is extending affordability to 60 years for some of the biggest developments. Affordability agreements currently stand at just the 30-year mark.

How affordability agreements work is, the City provides incentives to developers and in exchange they make units affordable, but the current 30-year watermark is seen as too short in the face of the steady march to urban gentrification and the unceremonious shoving out of decade-long residents. The issue of affordable housing has turned into a weighty one recently, becoming a go-to subject for many would-be Mayoral candidates.

“Sixty years isn’t permanent,” said Ms. Quinn, “but it’s a critical first step”. She is championing a move toward what she called “permanent affordability.” She is going to work on correcting what she finds as archaic legislation, which sees veterans’ tax exemptions inexplicably linked to how much the City spends on schools. “Is that a classic government kick in the pants, or what?” Ms. Quinn said.

In a speech that was laden with wistful recollections of a New York of days of yore, full of kinship and camaraderie, Ms. Quinn also urged the City to create a new program to help get the some 10,000 homeless families into long-term housing. She wants to prioritize homeless families for NYCHA apartments. “This isn’t just the right thing to do,” said Ms. Quinn, “it’s the fiscally responsible thing to do. The average cost of a rental subsidy for a family of four is $800 a month. To house that same family in a shelter? $3,000.”

The theme of rehousing the homeless offered a nice segue into her next topic: the state of housing maintenance. She criticized landlords at large, and the City’s own NYCHA, for taking “years for repairs that take less than an hour to make.” Ms. Quinn called for modifications to be made to the City’s housing maintenance code that would compel landlords to fix the root cause of building problems, and not just the short-term issue.

“Instead of just fixing water damage, landlords will have to repair the hole in the roof that’s causing it,” Ms. Quinn said. “Slumlords will have to spend real money and fix the real problem or we’ll haul them into housing court.” She reiterated her urgency on the timeliness of repairs: “Not in a year. Not in a month. Today”.

“‘How will the NYCHA be able to scale to this level of productivity,’ you say? Well funnily enough the Council are upping the funding for NYCHA for this year and in doing so creating 175 new jobs.”

Yes, before you know Ms. Quinn will have us back to those glory years she speaks of: Kick the can games on every street, suffocating smell of cabbage from every kitchen and the hanging of laundry out every window.

sduffy@observer.com Quinn Tackles Affordable Housing and Maintenance Problems In State of the City Address