By Ed Hersh
Last month, Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal was appointed chair of the New York State Assembly’s Committee on Housing, a key position focused on an issue that touches the lives of every New Yorker. “The need for safe and affordable housing, whether it be regulated, supportive, social, public, subsidized or something new, has truly never been greater,” Rosenthal said when she was appointed. “Skyrocketing rents, a looming eviction crisis, record rates of homelessness and bureaucratic delays have left far too many New Yorkers behind.”
Rosenthal, a Democrat who has represented the Upper West Side and part of Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen in the New York State Assembly for 17 years, has been a longtime advocate for tenants’ rights. A month into her new role as housing committee chair, Rosenthal spoke with the West Side Rag from Albany to elaborate on her priorities and where she thinks progress can be made.
Homelessness is one of those priorities. “The problem of unhoused people has been with us for a very long time,” she said. “COVID changed everything. Evictions were stayed during COVID because of the moratorium. And now that’s lifted so there are more evictions and that creates just more homelessness. You know, for the small landlords who can’t collect the rent, that’s a problem as well, and there have not been good solutions.”
A federally-funded pandemic relief program for those struggling to pay their rent — the Emergency Rental Assistance Program — provided financial assistance to help people stave off homelessness but it stopped taking applications on January 20th of this year. While there may still be funds for existing applicants, it leaves a void, says Rosenthal, for those who simply cannot pay their rent and could be forced into homelessness.
To fill that void, Rosenthal is sponsoring a new bill – a version of which is also in the Senate — that creates the Housing Assistance Voucher Program (HAVP). According to Rosenthal, the bill would create “statewide rental subsidies for low-income families and people facing evictions, people who are currently homeless, or experiencing loss of housing due to domestic violence and hazardous living conditions.” Under her plan, Rosenthal says, a tenant would pay 30% of their income toward rent, and after that a voucher would cover the rest, to up to 100% of fair market value.
While a new voucher program was not in Governor Kathy Hochul’s January proposed budget, Rosenthal says she believes the program has wide support in both the Assembly and Senate and is optimistic it will wind up in the state’s final budget after negotiations with the governor’s office. “It’s a beautiful thing,” Rosenthal says. “It really helps provide stability for low-income families, who wouldn’t have to be constantly worried because their rent would be covered.” And ultimately, she says, it reduces costs to taxpayers, because the program can prevent evictions and reduce the financial and social costs of being homeless. “I feel a lot of support for it this year; it is so necessary, we can’t put off dealing with this,” she says. “We have to make a dent.”
Rosenthal also wants to streamline the application process for housing assistance, based on what she saw firsthand during efforts to find homes for those living in The Lucerne hotel during the pandemic. “The amount of effort it took to place someone in an available apartment was enormous,” she says. “City agencies do not have the staff that’s needed, and it’s a slow and cumbersome process.”
Capital improvements to public housing are also a high priority, with an estimated $40 billion dollars needed. “The lack of investment in NYCHA has gone on over the years, and NYCHA has been falling into greater disrepair… and that’s always been true,” she says. “We used to get a lot of money from the federal government, but that pipeline has dried up and that’s part of the reason why NYCHA is 40 billion [dollars] in the hole,” she says, and as housing chair she sees “other public housing developments across the state and they also need greater investment.” While lobbying efforts continue for more funds from Washington, she said she is pushing for additional funding for NYCHA improvements in the upcoming budget negotiations with Gov. Hochul.
Last week, Borough President Mark Levine made headlines with a survey that identified 171 city-owned vacant lots and buildings that could be turned into affordable housing. Rosenthal agrees. “I think we have to do this and I’m going to work with him and see what we can get done.” But she points out that there are great opportunities to create new housing outside of Manhattan as well. “In part of Queens, in Brooklyn, and certainly the Bronx, where more development will be taking place [in the future], and we have to make sure there’s a major component of affordable housing.” For that, she advocates strategies such as re-zoning some areas, and creating regulations for new, safe, basement apartments to increase the housing supply. But she remains firmly opposed to giving any new tax breaks to developers.
The governor’s budget also proposes $1 billion for mental health services, which Rosenthal says can help in the struggle to end homelessness. “Some who don’t have housing also have mental health issues,” she says, “and getting mental health help means they get into the system and can be connected with agencies and organizations that help them find housing.”
I am glad that she is realizing that this is not just a Manhattan issue. It shouldn’t even just be an NYC issue. I know many upper middle class people who move to far parts of the country because it is more affordable. A certain amount of affordable housing in the city is a great idea. But at some point, it is going overboard and not the best use of resources.
I read numerous articles about how parts of the country are desperate for bus drivers, truck drivers, laborers, etc. Let’s match supply and demand and the problem will resolve itself. I’m sorry you don’t want to move to Topeka. But if there is a job there or you have no job here, there shouldn’t be a choice.
There shouldn’t be a choice? China has a Hukuo system just like this, but it’s not something that would be legal to replicate here in the free world
What we should be prioritizing is updating our cities and towns around the country to reflect the density and character of New York. Most cities around the world have groundbreaking public transit, public schools, public housing, public hospitals etc. But in America it’s really only NYC. Everywhere else is strip malls, intersections, HOA’s, and that’s about it. Everyone on this site likes to complain about the quality of life in New York but the quality of life everywhere else in America is abysmal. There’s a reason fentanyl use around the country is spiking and it’s entirely mental health related. Make the rest of America like New York, and people won’t fight so hard to live in the city because they have other options.
NYC’s public transportation isn’t adequate, especially compared to Europe and there’s also a lack of trust. MTA isn’t doing much to help repair that lack of trust by removing bus stops and cutting bus service in the outer boroughs in bus redesigns. If they tried what they’re trying in the outer boros on the UWS, the west side rag comments section and Gale Brewer’s office would be flooded with complaints. But since it’s not manhattanites suffering, they don’t care and are happy to screw everyone else.
Oh wow, Will. You either don’t get around to different cities in the US or you do and are blinded but what other states have and what they’re doing to move forward. NYC is not #1 in education, health care nor housing. Although, we ARE #1 in most expensive apt rentals in the US. We don’t have an appropriate recycle system. We’re one of the few major cities in the country that doesn’t have a residential parking sticker. But hey, we have Broadway.
A residential parking sticker would only play into the hands of urbanists who want to get rid of all street parking. The argument they make is that only 24% of residents drive cars so take from them. You need the workers, business owners and visitors to fight back against this as NYC doesn’t have the best transit network, especially once you leave certain areas of Manhattan.
Please join UWS4Parking fb page.
The current system plays into the hands of NJ residents who don’t pay taxes here…
NJ residents pay sales taxes here. They pay tolls which fund transportation facilities. It’s not like they pay no taxes here. You want to stop further parking removal, you need NJ residents support. Their elected officials have room to fight things like removal of parking which our elected officials can’t because they’re not compromised by the bike lobby. Resident parking permits will only give an excuse for people like Sara Lind to say that people who park here are wealthy and have a privilege and should suffer more. Now that you alienated workers from NJ and other suburbs, you guys have earned the bike lobby taking even more parking away. At least Sara Lind ran on a platform to build more housing so workers who live elsewhere can easily afford something nice on the UWS.
Sales taxes and tolls are DWARFED by the income/payroll/sales taxes that NYC residents pay… why should we need support from residents of a different state to make changes to our streets?
It’s interesting you used the word moving, because the only way other cities move in this country is in standstill traffic at a road rage intersection. What they don’t pay in rent they pay in gas, insurance, and parking. You mean to tell me you’d rather live in Minneapolis, Denver, Austin, Memphis, Atlanta, Santa Fe, Salt Lake City, Kansas City, Omaha, Louisville, Dallas, Phoenix, Vegas, Tucson, Nashville, Indianapolis, Tampa, Charlotte, Boise, and Sacramento?
What about all the empty rent-stabilized apartments that are being warehoused rather than rented?
Linda Rosenthal is only an “advocate for tenants’ rights” if these tenants live in rent regulated or public housing.
People living in market rate apartments get pummeled as her policies distort the market and cause everyone else to pay artificially bloated rents.
Rosenthal herself lives in a rent-controlled apartment she inherited from her parents. This is an appalling entitlement and people like her are the primary reason for our housing affordability problems.
So you are for the elimination of rent regulations. What’s the case for that? How would that benefit New York? I take it you are a landlord?
I am for the elimination of rent regulations. They are causing our housing shortage.
Studies have shown those deriving most benefits from RC and RS are tenants of housing in Manhattan, this primarily below Harlem.
In terms of controlling rent price outside of Manhattan large number of RS units have legal rents higher than market rate or otherwise asking.
Furthermore since 2019 change in rent laws ended luxury decontrol higher income (including wealthy) households are now free to keep their sweet RS apartments. Again this largely benefits those in Manhattan.
Steven Barall, I think folks are saying that it won’t work to double down on the last 70 years of housing policy. And that’s really what Rosenthal is proposing — more tenant privileges with a batch of subsidies.
It’s interesting how people use “landlord” as a slur. I don’t own rental property, but I think our city/state have rental housing policy all wrong.
I have friends who are landlords and I know how they get screwed over all the time. Tenants who simply refuse to pay rent for a year and nothing happens to them and in all fairness Assembly Member Rosenthal specifically mentioned this problem. There are also a lot of really horrible landlords in our city.
Personally I’m perfectly willing to take the horror stories on both sides on a case by case basis.
My dog has a firmer grasp of economics than Linda Rosenthal
You are correct, Otis. Her worldview — and her comment in this article — only extends to regulated housing. She makes no mention of market housing, and I think it’s because she is hostile to market rate housing. She’s never lived in market housing or owned housing. Frankly, it’s a conflict of interest I think legislators should disclose (just like we’d expect a legislator to disclose if they were a landlord).
Her policies are just more regulation and spending, which will spike rents. She doesn’t talk about construction (especially in less-dense neighborhoods of NYC and the suburbs).
Rosenthal’s most unfortunate idea is “Good Cause Eviction” AKA universal rent control, which is a wildly bad idea that will have massive negative impacts on quality of life and affordability.
Otis, imho you are in need of flipping the coin you are holding in your hand with your point of view. That is, Linda Rosenthal is a true new yorker who had to fight to keep her family’s home with her grandmother as I have read. I believe. This type of system is the one put into place to help low and middle income families to continue to secure housing stability over generations. In general wealthier families pass down residences from generations to generations to eliminate increasing costs based on the theme of every generation doing their part to maintain the residence. Such a resilient practice was built by the city by a genius or a group of genii in so much as to provide a path for low income and middle income families to flourish ergo affecting our society at all income levels as a whole. What an excelsior idea. However, all the folks who came after the above with their bright ideas created laws and plans which, laid track if you will, have slowly chipped away at the tree of life in our beautiful city. I for one strongly believe State Assembly Housing Chief Linda Rosenthal is the salve our city needs and instead a chip off the old block to help upstate understand Our City and the terminology vs practices at hand.
This comment is false. Linda Rosenthal is a sponsor of the “Good Cause” eviction bill which would apply to all apartments.
Something between 60% to nearly 70% of all rental housing in NYC is either RC, RS, NYCHA or otherwise subsidized. If good cause legislation becomes law you can kiss much if not all remaining free market rentals goodbye.
Large landlords may or may not by in; but smaller buildings including private 1-3 family homes that rent out apartments will simply pull out of rental market. People will sell and new homeowners likely will turn homes back into single family.
This or private equity or other investors will simply buy up rental housing from small landlords.
If it’s true that she “ lives in a rent-controlled apartment she inherited from her parents” then that really is appalling and she is part of the problem.
Why is that??? Should her rights be denied just because she’s a politician? Should she take money on the side to be able to afford an apartment in the city? You’re assuming she’s wealthy and could afford a high rent.
Assembly Members make less money than Sanitation workers, Police Officers, many School Teachers, Fire Fighters and many more City workers.
DSNY straight salaries are around $83,412 per. They can make more via overtime.
NYS assembly and senate members just voted themselves a nice fat pay increase. Base salary is now $142,000 under a bill they passed during a special session, a 29% raise over their salary of $110,000.
DSNY work forty hours per week FT. OTOH state legislators have essently a part-time job, they’re only in Albany from about January until April or May basically to get the budget done. Good majority are attorneys or otherwise have other employment outside Albany.
Trust me no one in Albany is anywhere near poverty.
Here’s an interesting article about Linda Rosenthal and her conflicts of interest re rent regulation which she has never disclosed. It’s a corrupt regime that she has exploited for her own personal benefit. https://nypost.com/2023/01/06/rent-control-deal-poses-conflict-of-interest-for-linda-rosenthal/
Under certain conditions family members or others living in a RS unit have succession rights.
This transfer can only happen once under an existing lease. For it to occur again a new lease must be drawn up and any factors or conditions affecting issuance of a new lease come into play.
Mrs. Rosenthal’s children, grandchildren nor anyone else can “inherit” her current apartment under terms of old lease. LL is free to treat any such request as one for a new lease which is same as anyone else. LL could request and enforce “40x rent to income” ratio and anything else used to vet new tenants.
This “Good Cause” eviction bill is the type of nonsense that sounds good politically but in practice is a disaster.
There are many deadbeat tenants who refuse to pay rent and exploit this law. Landlords get stuck with tenants who won’t pay any rent and they wind up with exorbitant legal bills trying to evict them.
The NY Post has run many articles about nightmare tenants who take advantage of this law.
Besides, with unemployment at 3.5% there’s no “good cause” that should prohibit anyone from paying their rent.
So called “good cause” RE laws are just another way to regulate rental housing without calling it outright rent control or stabilization.
Does she have a rent controlled apartment that she somehow inherited?
The idea that people inherit a rent controlled apartment is the whole problem with our system of regulations. You shouldn’t “inherit” someone else’s property. And you shouldn’t have subsidized rent independent of means testing.
According to a recent article in Crain’s, the average rs rental per month is $1,000. The average deregulated rent is $4,000. Rent stabilization laws have completely screwed up New York’s housing market. Yet, state politicians gave rent stabilized tenants more protections and got rid of luxury de-control in 2019. Why!!?!? Most rent stabilized tenants are elderly and would have their rent frozen anyway. To me the law was just to pander to elderly voters. I complained to our local state assemblymember, O’Donnell, who for some reason thought the law was a great victory. There are no restrictions on how much a landlord can raise the rent in a deregulated apartment and that’s where families with school-age children live.
Quote from Crain’s”
The median legal rent for stabilized units where the tenants renewed their lease was $1,509 for fiscal year 2021-22, the report says. The median rent was $2,324 for units where a new tenant signed a lease.
From 2017 New York City
Housing and Vacancy Survey (NYCHVS):
The median income of rent stabilized households is $44,560 compared to $67,000 for households in private, non-regulated units.
Neither rent controlled nor stabilized housing are considered “subsidized per se. Financial status of household is only vetted once by LL, at time of applying for unit, there is are no legal requirements regarding income.
Scores of rent controlled and stabilized tenants own homes or condos. You can see them packing up to spend weekends at their country houses on Thursdays and Fridays like everyone else.
RC laws in this state only specify tenant of record must use apartment as primary residence. Numerous court decisions have reinforced this rule.
I know of at least two people who had rent-stabilized apartments….and “country homes.” Please make it make sense.
I also know a family like that.
There are many more.
An older article from 2005 thus many RS tenants named may no longer have their units or even be alive.
Mia Farrow was forced to give up her RS apartment at the Langham due to luxury decontrol laws (since repealed). Ditto for Carly Simon (same building), but not Cyndi Lauper (the Apthorp).
Even with luxury decontrol many RS tenants who could easily afford market rate managed to hang onto their units. Now that 2019 changes in law took away that process well off RS households have nothing to fear.
Democrats will say such households are outliers; majority of RS tenants are lower income.
We need more homes on the Upper West Side. The housing crisis is a housing shortage.
There are 798 homes available for rent and 971 for sale on the UWS on a popular local real estate site. We’re good.
And rent is at an all time high. Clear signal we need to build more housing on the UWS and across the five boroughs
Or, it’s a clear signal that the marked is severely skewed by all the welfare programs, pandemic-related but never-ending checks, vouchers and rent control. Even the mention of “fair market value” in this context is laughable (not to mention that the mechanics/methodology of determining this FMV would be sheer entertainment).
Or, it’s a clear signal we simply need / can tolerate even richer people around here.
What it IS a clear signal of, is that *we* don’t need to do anything. Developers MIGHT want to, based on the stats you and I cite, and their assessment of their ability to build profitably, at the right place and at the right cost. As for *we” – the City clearly already has the amazing ability to mobilize and house everyone, on the drop of a dime and at exorbitant cost (paid by us), as evidenced by the placement of 25-30,000 foreign, non-tax-paying newcomers in virtually the most expensive possible housing, while providing an array of free services not generally available for free to any taxpayer.
“a dent?” that’s aiming low
You suggest spending billions of dollars to create housing for NEW residents to live in NYC. Has any thought been given to the fact
that this City cannot accommodate any more people. ?? Or accommodate people who are
A Tiny House Village at 4K per tiny house
IS THE SOLUTION. Is that so hard to understand Built rapidly within 6 months!
It’s working on the State of Montana and it
is the solution for our homeless|sick population. You are spending 4K per month
for flea bag hotel per month right now!!
Here are your solutions. If it is not done
then I can only believe no one is thinking. clearly
Tiny Houses more like $40K per. But who’s counting, right?
There are tiny houses in the $4000 range but they’re similar to a motel room with a camper size kitchen and bath. Shipping crates are actually larger. Probably a relief for someone who has no home at all, but sad just the same.
Thank you Linda Rosenthal. Let’s hope something actually does pass in Albany!
No one is ever looking out for the NYC residents working so hard to make between $40K – $75K who pay the bulk of all the taxes. We work 60+ hours/week to live in a SHOEBOX and WE need “affordable housing”. Why is someone who has NEVER had to live in a tiny full priced shoebox running housing for the biggest major city in the country?
This is what is so wrong with this city and state and why we are going bankrupt and in a downward spiral. We have the worst leadership there is running things. How about that $850+ million dollars for mental health that our last mayor abused and squandered. The amount of mentally ill walking the streets tells the story and $850 million was spent for it. Did we not learn anything from that?
We need people that know what they are doing running this city – if people would vote and talk to their friends and get them to go out and VOTE and vote differently for the City Council and Assembly than the last 10 years, we might have a chance.
Supply and demand. The answer to high housing costs is to build more housing! Not distortionary vouchers. The high cost of housing and taxes makes nyc a hard place to raise a family. Paying for that will just make the problem worse.
Too many people in City. More apts more people. City planners must get to work
on this subject. More multi billion bldgs is
“To fill that void, Rosenthal is sponsoring a new bill – a version of which is also in the Senate — that creates the Housing Assistance Voucher Program (HAVP). According to Rosenthal, the bill would create “statewide rental subsidies for low-income families and people facing evictions, people who are currently homeless, or experiencing loss of housing due to domestic violence and hazardous living conditions.” Under her plan, Rosenthal says, a tenant would pay 30% of their income toward rent, and after that a voucher would cover the rest, to up to 100% of fair market value.”
Just where is the money going to come from to fund yet another “welfare” mandate.
NYC and NYS already have various generous housing voucher and subsidy programs.
When you add so called “affordable/low income” lottery housing and rest of things city and state spend huge sums of aid already in support of low income housing. Meanwhile middle class receives comparatively little. This while they are taxed, fee and surcharged to death.
Agreed. It is very difficult to be middle class in New York City. There is housing for the super wealthy, low-income, and seniors. A lot has been made of the recent article in the New York Times about Black-American middle class families leaving, because of the high cost of living. Reality is though that it is tough for any middle class family of any race.
Is it true that lenders often require landlords to charge a minimum amount of rent when they let units of a given size? NY Mag had an article speculating that this practice, dictated by banks, is part of the reason why there are so many warehoused apartments.
The security of staying in an apartment is most paramount. Rather than spending millions tearing down and building new “affordable” apartments in strange neighborhoods, why not create more rent stabilized apartments in the current neighborhoods so people can remain in their neighborhoods and be a community! Especially important for seniors and those others who live on social security or low pensions or low paying jobs.
What they need to do is upgrade and expand the subway so we can build more in the outer boroughs and beyond and still connect everyone to Manhattan (the heart of the city). On top of that they need to build connections between the different lines between the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens so it makes an easier transfer and commute. We wouldn’t be fighting over the most convenient neighborhoods anymore because we would have more to choose from. People love to talk about the free market, well I learned about supply and demand in high school and there’s a ton of demand. Where’s the supply?
A . NYC has some of the oldest housing stock in country. Like everything else buildings have a set lifespan and sooner or later should be largely renovated or just torn down and replaced with something new.
B. Thanks to quirks in NYC zoning laws hundreds of properties are sitting on land with unused FAR (Floor to Area Ratio). Thus the land underneath building is worth more than structure itself because something new and larger can be built with those unused air rights.
C. At least for Manhattan (which is an island) there isn’t much more available land. Much of lower Manhattan has been expanded over centuries via landfill (Batter Park City is one example). Thus only way to add more housing is to build “up”. Replacing a two story or six floor walk up with same does not add more housing units.
If you want to reduce the housing crisis, you need to build more housing and it needs to be cheap. It’s not doable in Manhattan, so if you want to fix this you need to change zoning throughout the city from single family zoning to duplexes and triplexes.
Then instead of subsidizing renters, provide subsidized construction loans and, for those units which are rental units in formerly single family areas, streamlined eviction procedures and guarantees of exemption from rent regulation.
For those who like a good read and are interested in facts suggest New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey (NYCHVS).
This tri-annual report paints in interesting picture of NYC housing. It shows for instance that rent regulations often are not the promise of “affordable” housing many would believe.