Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'

To Speak of City Issues That Matter

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It’s been reported that we’ve recently broke a milestone for public housing in New York City: There are now more applicants for public housing than there are apartments in public housing. Specifically, there are some 227,000 applicants and only some 178,900 units total in the city, about 3% of which may actually become available in any one year.

Mind you: That’s not a quarter million people. That’s a quarter million applicants – both individuals and families. It actually works out to half a million people. We have a transient population in New York of half a million people. That puts us in the in the same ballpark as eastern Chinese cities, except they’ve been doing something about it.

Bloomberg’s response was to tie “affordable” housing with luxury development – wherein each new building has to have some 20% of housing that is affordable, but it’s simply not enough. The average monthly rent in New York, despite economic stagnation and collapse, shot up from $1200 in 2002 to $1900 in 2011, with Manhattan alone being over $3400, as demand completely outstripped supply.

This is a crisis. It’s not new – we’ve had a crisis since before I was born, which is why we made rent control and rent regulation (and thank god for that or I wouldn’t be able to live in this city) – but it’s worse than ever before. Each of the Democratic candidates for mayor have proposed to build new housing, but the numbers they give wouldn’t even make a dent in the magnitude of the problem, should they even achieve them, and their plans are actually dwarfed by what Bloomberg’s succeeded in doing. (Indeed, they seem to have fallen on the “we feel your pain” route as of late in lieu of actual plans.)

Today, we have China-sized problems. We need China-sized solutions. We need to flood this city with housing, and damn the NIMBYs. Bloomberg prompted a building boom:¬†We need a boom to make that one look like a store-bought firecracker. We simply cannot have this outsized underclass eking away an existence nor can we truly afford to price out people who could make a living practically everywhere else in the country. We’re causing working New Yorkers to exist in an untenable tenancy situation, which is driving down the economy overall.

We need a New Deal shot in the arm. We’ve needed that for at least ten years. I know Obama isn’t FDR, but can he at least pretend to be?

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