From Crain’s New York Business:

Some advocates still seek the impossible: union-built apartments exclusively for the poorest New Yorkers

To the Editor:

In reporting criticism that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing plan serves a diverse range of income levels, the article “Why de Blasio’s affordable housing plan is in trouble” legitimizes baseless claims by fringe activists who distort the administration’s plan for political purposes. In fact, the administration has made historic strides to combat a housing crisis that severely impacts low-, moderate- and middle-income residents alike. The only failure here is the federal government’s inability to provide additional subsidies to create and preserve more Section 8 and public housing for the lowest-income New Yorkers.

In less than three years, de Blasio’s plan has already created more than 13,000 affordable apartments for very-low-income households (families of three making less than $40,800 per year), including around 7,000 new apartments for extremely low-income households (families of three making less than $24,500 per year). This effort has also created and preserved tens of thousands of apartments for other low- and middle-income families. We should applaud that, not condemn it.

The administration’s focus on mixed-income housing is often attacked by construction union-backed groups like New York Communities for Change, who believe we should only use costlier union labor while only building housing for the lowest-income New Yorkers. Aside from the fact that this would be financially impossible, it makes no sense to exclude struggling moderate- and middle-income families who deserve safe, quality affordable housing just as much as anyone else in our city.

As an advocate for New York City’s new $15 minimum wage, New York Communities for Change should know that workers at that wage level—with annual salaries equivalent to around $31,000—would no longer qualify for extremely low-income housing, which has only been available to workers making up to approximately $11.50 per hour. Workers and their families should not be penalized for reaping the hard-won benefits of a higher minimum wage, and they should not be excluded from the city’s housing plan.

Politically motivated attacks should not stop the mayor from building and preserving affordable housing for all New Yorkers. Advocacy groups that want to see more apartments for extremely low-income families should join us in urging Congress to provide more of the resources necessary to make that possible.

Jolie Milstein

President & CEO

New York State Association for Affordable Housing

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