Nearly nine in 10 extremely poor New Yorkers pay more than 30% of their income on housing and utilities, and 70% pay more than half. This emergency is rooted in a severe shortage of affordable homes for those renters. But the crisis is not impacting only low-income residents. Even middle-income New York households increasingly cannot find an affordable home.
The original Build Back Better Act proposal could help by unlocking a historic amount of resources to produce new—and preserve existing—affordable housing units across New York.
The proposal would reform outdated provisions in the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program to make the credit—which produces nearly all the affordable housing in New York and leverages private capital to do so—more efficient and effective. The result would be an additional 100,000 affordable units in New York within the next decade, representing a twofold increase in affordable housing production. It also would expand funding for the credit overall, expanding its reach and making it financially feasible to build even more new units.
The act also would expand the National Housing Trust Fund, the only federal housing program explicitly targeted at extremely low-income households.
That would ensure that many of the units reach the lowest income New Yorkers—and, coupled with LIHTC improvements, would help build the economically inclusive neighborhoods New York deserves.
Not only would that help mitigate the housing crisis but it also could lay the foundation for a more productive, equitable and prosperous economy in the long term.
Much of our existing housing crisis is simply a matter of insufficient supply. There are not enough available affordable units. By creating new affordable homes, we can increase supply to meet the demand. This fundamental economic reality is often lost in complex housing debates. The bottom line is we need to produce more affordable housing, and the Build Back Better bill can help us get there.
Building homes is a form of economic stimulus. The typical 100-unit affordable housing development in New York generates an average of nearly 185 construction jobs and more than $46 million in sustained local economic activity, according to a New York State Association for Affordable Housing study. In other words, we can simultaneously make New York more affordable and prosperous.
The opportunity before us is truly a once-in-a-generation chance to invest in housing solutions. If we let this chance pass us by, we will be letting down those who need us the most.
Jolie Milstein is president and CEO of the New York State Association for Affordable Housing.