Most people can agree on the need: There are 92,000 homeless people in New York state, most of them in New York City.
They already have a guaranteed right to shelter, but now a new coalition is pushing to include money in next year’s state budget to guarantee permanent housing for each of them.
“We really need the state to commit more resources to housing in the budget. Right now, our state’s budget is $180 billion, but only $600 million is set toward housing,” housing advocate Cea Weaver said. “So we really need to increase that number.”
The cost would be steep: $10 billion each year to ensure that every New Yorker has their basic housing needs met. To pay for it, lawmakers say they would need a new source of dedicated revenue, which they argue they can get from the wealthiest New Yorkers.
“Right now, multi-millionaires, people who earn more than a million dollars per year in New York state, their top tax rate is the same whether they earn $5 million per year or $500 million per year,” said Democratic State Sen. Julia Salazar of Brooklyn. “So I have legislation that would increase their top tax rate, an equitable progressive tax.”
The newly formed Housing Justice for All campaign is getting an early start, five months ahead of when the state budget is due. Last year, some of these same advocates pushed through a huge rent package that dramatically altered the dynamic between owners and tenants in favor of renters. 1.6 million New Yorkers currently have no rent protections at all.
“This is a step toward taking away private ownership,” said Jay Martin of the Community Housing Improvement Program. “It’s regulating every single unit, and making sure that it’s not actually providing actual housing for more New Yorkers. It’s going to make housing more scarce in New York.”
There is no question the terms of the debate have greatly shifted to the left in Albany. But this price tag may prove too out of reach. Part of the problem also is that it’s a recurring revenue, meaning lawmakers will need to come up with $10 billion year after year. On the other hand, this could also be the starting point for a negotiation and compromise, like most everything else in Albany.