By Kathryn Garcia
Over the last year, COVID-19 has exposed deep vulnerabilities and worsened a crisis that has long plagued our city: affordable housing. Even before COVID-19, more than half of New Yorkers were “rent-burdened.” During the last eight years, our current mayor has stood by and allowed homelessness to increase by an unconscionable 23 percent.
With so many at risk of losing their homes, and many others still struggling with homelessness, New York City needs a mayor who will treat homelessness like the crisis it is. As the former interim chair of NYCHA, I am the candidate with the hands-on housing management experience in New York City who knows how to put a comprehensive plan into action.
Safe, secure housing is a right and we must address homelessness with equal parts compassion and urgency. The city spends $3 billion annually on shelters and renting hotel rooms that fail to adequately serve our families and neighborhoods. To solve the problems of homelessness we must move away from a shelter strategy toward a permanent housing strategy.
As mayor, I will end street homelessness. We’ll start by opening new drop-in centers with bathrooms and critical services, allowing social workers to reach people experiencing street homelessness and begin the process of getting people housed and the services they need. We’ll also convert dormitory-style shelters, which are often dangerous unstable environments, into specialized “stabilization bed” facilities with private or shared rooms.
We must ensure that we are confronting the root of the issue and create more affordable housing. The simple fact is that the city added 100,000 units of housing to accommodate 500,000 new inhabitants. This was a huge problem before the pandemic. It’s now a full-blown crisis, and we need to get to work to ensure that all New Yorkers can live and thrive in our city and are not priced out or struggling to find a home.
We must make it faster, easier, and legal for our private partners to build, by accelerating approvals for new housing construction. Under my administration, we will comprehensively zone for more affordable housing citywide, end apartment bans and discriminatory zoning, and allow duplexes and triplexes to create more options for families.
When it comes to NYCHA, we need to cut the “planning” and start delivering. NYCHA doesn’t need another plan—residents have seen plan after plan after plan, including three under the de Blasio administration. We know what needs to be done—install new boilers, hire more plumbers, fix broken elevators, eliminate mold—and my focus will be on executing. We will leverage substantial federal money to fix units—available in Section 8, RAD, and other programs—so NYCHA residents can be proud of their homes.
The truth is, I never planned on running for mayor. But a crisis of this scale calls for a leader with proven experience and tested management skills. New Yorkers, particularly those experiencing housing insecurity, can’t afford another four years of vague platitudes and failed promises. We need a mayor who can dig in and do the work that will deliver. We need a mayor who will get it done.
Kathryn Garcia is a Democratic candidate for mayor of New York City.