Editorial dismissive of savings to renters, housing options

Calvin Horne

Calvin Horne

On Oct. 5, The Mercury published an editorial "Good ideas for MHK don't really mean lower rents.” The primary concern seems to be a misperception that proposals offered during a recent city commission meeting don’t do much to lower housing prices in Manhattan. As someone involved these proposals, I hope to clarify the connections between the proposals and affordability.

Let's start with the proposal for mandatory rental inspections. It’s not a given that inspections raise rent. The city could consider tax abatement for properties needing reinvestment. Even if inspections did raise the price of rent, that is not the only cost renters face. Utility costs from poor insulation also take money away from renters. The money saved by enforcing existing building codes could easily outweigh any increase in the price of rent.

The proposal for a housing trust fund directly connects to affordability. The city of Ithaca, N.Y., currently operates such a fund. Ithaca’s fund distributes money to housing projects through a competitive application process. The fund makes development easier, while at the same time allowing the community to have a say in what kind of development should be prioritized.

The proposal for a Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) increases housing stock by offering tax breaks for new development, not just rehabilitation. If part of the problem is a lack of housing stock, then an NRP is part of the solution.

All of these proposals have a direct connection to affordability, and they should be seriously considered.

This piece originally ran in The Mercury on Oct. 12, 2018.