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August 26, 2019

As housing costs skyrocket, we need stronger rent controls now

May 27, 2018
Foreclosed possibilities

We all know the story of how Wall Street crashed the economy. They forced hundreds of thousands of families into foreclosure with subprime loans and balloon payments that made mortgages impossible to pay back. Then they turned around and donated millions of dollars to politicians who pointed the finger at low- and moderate-income families, immigrants and people of color for “living beyond their means.”

And as homeownership is increasingly out of reach, more and more of New York State is renting.

Wall Street is capitalizing on this shift in the housing market. They have returned to their agenda of recklessness by going on a shopping spree across the country. Private equity firms and developers are buying up single-family homes that went into foreclosure and large-scale apartment complexes. They are even buying up mobile home parks and increasing fees on residents. Any kind of housing they can get their hands on: They are buying it and raising the monthly costs for the existing residents.

What’s their goal? To make billions of dollars off the rise of the renter nation, and skyrocketing rents across the country.

Tenants in New York are already facing a housing crisis. Nearly half of the state’s residents are renters. In New York City, rents are increasing twice as fast as wages. Homelessness is increasing across the state and approaching 100,000 people statewide.

More than half of New York City residents are rent-burdened, meaning they pay over 30% of their income in rent, with many paying closer to 50% of the income in rent.

This is part of a crisis that’s happening around the country. As cities are gentrifying and jobs are returning to metropolitan centers, tenants are facing escalated rents. Entire communities, most of which are black and brown, are being displaced.

With a corrupt real-estate developer in the White House, it’s a crucial moment for Democrats to stand up and fight with tenants against skyrocketing rents and evictions — by championing rent control.

Everyone, whether or not they rent or own, deserves the security of a stable home over their head. As inequality widens, more households are renting than ever before in modern history.

The people of color, millennials and low-income voters who make up the base of the Democratic Party are also more likely to be experiencing the effects of the housing crisis, especially in states like New York, California and Illinois.

The most important thing we can do right now is to strengthen and expand our rent laws to keep renter families stable in the places where they already live. The way to stop rents from continuing to rise is to aggressively expand tenants’ rights, so that landlords and private equity firms on Wall Street can’t prey on communities, bring unnecessary evictions, and spike up rents.

That’s why I launched my #RentJusticeForAll platform, one of the most progressive and expansive tenant protection programs in the country.

In the face of the rise of the big landlord, our plan would expand rent protections across the board and across the state. It would re-regulate hundreds of thousands of units that have been taken over by corporate landlords. And it gives every tenant the right to not be evicted without a just cause.

As the New York Times reported last week, since Gov. Cuomo took office we have lost at least 75,000 units of rent-stabilized housing. More and more, tenants don’t even know their landlord.

Nameless and faceless corporate entities — LLCs that can legally donate unlimited amounts of money to campaigns in New York — are buying up buildings and renting out apartments with the explicit plan to push the existing residents out.

We know that Democrats need to do more to inspire our base to get involved and turn out. Controlling housing costs — standing up for ordinary New Yorkers against corporate interests — must be one key piece of our vision. It’s a way to show, not just through words but deeds, that we’re a party that stands up to millionaires and billionaires and fights for racial and economic justice.

Nixon is a Democratic and Working Families Party candidate for governor of New York.

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