The crisis in affordable housing

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There is no question that the city is reeling from an affordable housing crisis. You can see it in the increasing numbers of homeless and the loss of affordable housing. Mayor de Blasio’s plan to build and preserve affordable housing is critical now more than ever.

We’ve studied the numbers in our Upper West Side district. A detailed analysis of the rent-regulated units captured in the city’s Department of Finance indicates that the three ZIP codes that comprise most of District 6 will have lost more than 2,500 units from 2014 to 2016. Over the same time period, fewer than 1,000 units will have been preserved or built by year’s end.

One critical piece of preserving affordable housing is providing tenants with free legal help. Overall, roughly 90 percent of building owners come to housing court with a lawyer. Only 10 percent of tenants come to housing court with a lawyer. There’s no question that having a lawyer in housing court increases the tenant’s likelihood of staying in their home. Our office provides access to lawyers with our free monthly housing clinic and, when possible, individual referrals. You can learn more about our Housing Clinic on our website, They are held at Goddard Riverside Community Center on the first Wednesday of each month.

Unscrupulous building owners use a range of tools to harass tenants. Even without a lawyer, knowledge is power. As tenants, we know that acknowledging and addressing harassment sooner rather than later is the best way to stay in our homes.

Of the many issues residents raise when they come into our office, affordable housing is, by far, the most prevalent and complex. Housing Conservation Coordinators is an effective nonprofit that provides legal, organizing and research support for tenants and legislators. They hold an annual tenant’s conference that brings together nonprofit tenant organizers, lawyers and legislators to speak with tenants about a range of affordable housing issues. I urge tenants to attend this one-day conference where you will obtain invaluable information.

Every year conference topics range from the routine to the more timely. Routine topics include where to find and obtain affordable housing, dealing with harassment, public benefits for seniors and public housing NYCHA-specific issues.

The topical issues this year are immigration and public housing, predatory equity, the impact of the Port Authority Bus Terminal redevelopment on affordable housing, and a report that quantifies the impact of Airbnb on affordable housing. Featured speakers are Thomas Main and Congressman Jerrold Nadler.

This year I will be speaking about the “Dos and Don’ts of Renting your Apartment on Airbnb.” While many see Airbnb as an opportunity to earn some extra income, most do not know that if they post an illegal rental they risk eviction.

The conference will be held at Fordham Law School. Breakfast and lunch are free it usually starts at 9 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. Stay tuned to the Housing Conservation Coordinators Website to confirm details.

Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal represents the Upper West Side’s District 6.

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