Toba Potosky: I know affordable housing, because I live in it
“New York City is in an affordable housing crisis.” How many times do we need to hear that before our lawmakers take action? The difficult truth is that New York City doesn’t lack affordable housing opportunities — we lack affordable housing leadership. Those in charge either don’t know how to fix the problems, or they just don’t care.
I know affordable housing because I live in it. In the 60s and 70s, NYC built over 100,000 affordable apartments that to this day are supporting people like me across the five boroughs. I am fortunate to be a beneficiary of the Mitchell-Lama program, considered one of New York’s most successful affordable housing programs. Having worked hard in my 16 years as president of Cadman Towers, I’ve made sure that my family and neighbors have a safe, quality roof over their heads. I’m running for City Council in District 33 because I believe all New Yorkers deserve to be represented by elected officials who will fight for affordable housing as a basic right.
That’s why I developed my five-point plan as a roadmap to our affordable housing future. We will get low-income renters off of the rent rolls and into a better life as homeowners. We will establish a reality-based approach to determining housing affordability. We will revitalize NYCHA housing by empowering residents with a real Tenants Bill of Rights and challenging the status quo that produced a 500,000-deep backlog of repair tickets. We will replace homeless shelters with provisional housing that provides onsite support services. And we will provide an all-new Rent Assistance Program for all New Yorkers struggling to pay their rent as a result of COVID-19.
The cornerstone of the plan is the understanding that homeownership is key to breaking the cycle of poverty and creating racial, social, and economic justice. Throughout the five boroughs, low-income individuals and families are paying rent for distressed or near-foreclosed properties. Working with nonprofits, lenders, and landlords we will convert these properties into below-market-rate co-ops and make homeowners out of renters, building real roots in a community and lifting them out of an endless cycle of poverty.
The consequences of decades of inaction and mismanagement of the largest landlord in the five boroughs – New York City – is most easily seen in the Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) track record of failure. NYCHA residents endure mold, leaky pipes, times without water, and often no heat on winter’s coldest days. My proposal to revitalize NYCHA will give residents a greater say in the care, maintenance, and management of their homes, as well as empower them through a Tenants Bill of Rights. And, to create opportunity among those in need, we will fund apprenticeship and job training programs in association with our unions, providing hands-on educational opportunities to high school-age children and above.
Affordable housing can also combat homelessness. Each year, we spend millions of dollars on a shelter system that does not provide security, stability, nor recovery. We must eliminate homeless shelters and redirect funds to programs like provisional housing that work to permanently transition people out of homelessness and into better lives. By expanding the Safe Havens that have proven effective in getting tough-to-house individuals off the streets as well as enhancing partnerships with nonprofits, we can ensure investments will make a lasting difference in the lives of the City’s 80,000 people without homes.
To support current renters and protect our local landlords, we need to move away from “Cancel Rent” and instead “Subsidize Rent” through a brand-new Rent Assistance Program (RAP). Despite perceptions of megacorporations and robber barons, many landlords in New York City are family businesses that own one or two small properties – we can’t leave them out in the cold. RAP will provide grants up to the highest NYCHA rent rates to individuals and families living in public or private housing. Rent subsidies, tracked by the city, would be sent directly to landlords to cover the eligible portion of a participant’s monthly rent.
Lastly, by redesigning the Reagan-era calculations that determine rent affordability to reflect the actual financial conditions of struggling New Yorkers, we can create a more fair and equitable system for the next 40 years.
Join me in making a real commitment to creating quality affordable housing for our grandparents, children, and neighbors. Let’s make this decade the era of quality affordable housing for New York City.
Toba Potosky is a candidate for New York City Council in District 33, representing Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Dumbo, Downtown Brooklyn, Fulton Ferry, Greenpoint, Vinegar Hill, Williamsburg, and Bed-Stuy. Having built his roots as a community advocate, his campaign is about putting people over politics – starting with affordable housing and an economic recovery that works for everyone in Brooklyn. He brings to the table new leadership and new energy to actually get things done by fixing the challenges we have faced for far too long. To learn more about Toba and his plans, visit www.toba2021.com.
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