Bed-Stuy City Council Candidates Weigh-In on NYCHA, Affordable Housing

NYCHA's Sumner Houses in Bed-Stuy. Photo from the NYCHA Twitter.

After a chaotic pandemic year, Brooklynites are worried about stability, money, employment, and housing. 

KCP caught up with up and coming city council hopefuls Henry Butler, Tahirah Moore, Chi Ossé, and Regina Edwards to ask about their goals for affordable housing and the New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) 21 developments in District 36 covering Bedford-Stuyvesant and Northern Crown Heights.

Henry Butler

Butler said he has been working for affordable housing being developed on city-owned land during his tenure on District 3’s community board.

He referenced the five-story housing project at 500 Gates Avenue and the recently passed Bedford Housing Initiative, which encompasses five properties available for affordable housing. He said he’s been fighting for that initiative throughout his time on the board and as a District Manager.

“Now, as far as NYCHA, this is very personal for me as someone who was raised in Tompkins Houses,” said Butler.  

Butler said that every development needs to decide among tenants and their associations if they want to be in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program. “It’s supposed to bring in much needed funding for housing, but that’s a conversation that needs to be had with residents and leadership,” said Butler.

He said the last 40 years, with the crack and drug epidemics ravaging public housing, that the federal and state investments to get back on track. He added that NYCHA for the last few years has also been selling off their properties within the developments and building on their land, and has advocated that those buildings be senior housing. 

Tahirah Moore

“As a daughter of my community, growing up in Marcy Houses in Bed-Stuy, I will never stop the fight until liveable and secure NYCHA housing is a reality,” said Moore. 

Moore said that long before the health pandemic, constituents have been suffering from an institutional crisis due to the lack of affordable housing. She aims to examine every housing policy through the lens of justice for communities that have been redlined and taken advantage of for generations. 

She said the city, state, and federal government need to step in and share the NYCHA debt to fully support decent and safe housing for residents. 

“It is unconscionable that in the middle of a global pandemic where so many of my neighbors are struggling to survive our state and local governments refuse to step up and help them by cancelling rent and freezing mortgage payments,” said Moore.

Edwards said that combining the existing foundation of housing, with new programs, tools, and additional resources, can create a new housing plan. She aims to generate a further 100,000 affordable homes over the following four years, so 300,000 in total by 2026.

Regina Edwards

“The City is in a position to reach a sustained goal of 25,000 affordable homes preserved or constructed per year – a rate it has never before achieved,” said Edwards. “That accelerated pace will result in the Housing Plan’s completion of 200,000 affordable homes by 2022, two years ahead of schedule.”

She said this is the ideal scenario over the coming years for housing and she would help in any way possible on that front. 

Ossé, like other candidates, grew up in the district and has very strong opinions about affordable housing. He uses facts and data to determine the basis of his housing policies.

He said a start would be to examine the mode and modal sets of a Community Board District, then compare this information with the Area Median Income (AMI) chart, which is considered affordable if it costs about one-third or less of what the people living there earn. The comparisons, he said, will help establish and lead to better negotiations for affordable units versus market units.

“I want to reset the conversation. Affordable housing and reasonable housing. The former is based on the legal term of the rental rate being 30 percent or less. The second term, I define as more than 40 percent, and the property is not overvalued or predatory-priced. Both scenarios are an issue,” said Ossé. 

Chi Ossé

He firmly believes that the district needs more fairly priced housing units with better protections for small home owners and their rentals. It is vital to assess and review the current tax deals with developers and unit deals with investors, said Ossé.

On the subject of NYCHA, he said nothing saddens him more. “NYCHA needs money. NYCHA needs a culture shift. NYCHA needs an administration overhaul. NYCHA needs to listen, without prejudice, to its NYCHA Tenant Associations and individual families,” said Ossé. 

He added that RAD is designed for structural issues, and he is sitting with NYCHA tenants to find out what they need and how they feel about their situations.

“Privatizing and private management of NYCHA is the new polarizing plan,” said Ossé.

The City Council Democratic Primary is June 22.

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