Throughout New York State (NYS), years of profit-focused property development has led to a crisis marked by surging rents, widespread evictions, and escalating homelessness. The laws, policies, and programs in place enable this system to exist at the expense of low-income and working class New Yorkers who increasingly cannot afford to live here. There is consensus among activists, tenants, and progressive lawmakers that government intervention is needed to address a century-long crisis. One proposed solution is the establishment of a Social Housing Development Authority (SHDA), which would have the power to preserve and create affordable, democratically-controlled housing on a significant scale. However, designing such an entity raises crucial questions about its structure and governance, considering the history of public authorities in NYS that have struggled to stand the test of time and have been criticized for misuse of power, fiscal irresponsibility, and ties to influential interest groups.
The push for an SHDA comes amidst recognition that relying primarily on private intervention does not suffice to meet the housing needs of New Yorkers, and that public subsidies for private development consistently fail to achieve safe, decent, affordable housing for all income levels.
An authority with broad powers could bridge the gaps left by existing agencies and authorities to support wide-scale preservation, rehabilitation, and creation of desperately needed social housing
across NYS. The diversity of our state means that a one-size-fits-all model of intervention will not work; every location requires a unique building typology, design, target population, and financing strategy to meet needs and to align with local politics. For these reasons, we propose a flexible structure for the SHDA that enables it to respond to a variety of communities with different projects and initiatives.
This report starts with a historical overview of housing interventions in NYS to help contextualize this proposal and highlight the successes and challenges of past government-backed housing programs that offer important lessons for the SHDA. It then provides an overview of existing housing conditions in the State, the available mechanisms to produce affordable housing, and their inability to meet urgent housing needs.
The next section introduces the SHDA as a new and powerful affordable housing production tool that is applied through three case studies based on real world conditions to exemplify its flexibility to intervene in the existing market. The report concludes with a series of policy recommendations intended to strengthen the SHDA and help cultivate a broader environment of housing affordability.
Read the full PDF report here.