New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Affordable Housing

Affordable housing development must seek a better balance between market rate and affordable housing. Pioneers who have built our neighborhoods must not be forced to leave because they are victims of their own success, their housing should remain affordable so that they may realize the fruits of their labor.<br><br>As former Chief of Staff for&nbsp;<a href="; target="_BLANK"><strong>Mitchell-Lama</strong></a>&nbsp;Subcommittee Chair,&nbsp;<a href="; target="_BLANK"><strong>Assemblyman Jonathan L. Bing</strong></a>, I know the current issues facing affordable housing. I had the opportunity to work on the next generation of progressive&nbsp;<a href="; target="_BLANK"><strong>legislation</strong></a>&nbsp;that would scale certain rent regulations to the&nbsp;<a href="; target="_BLANK"><strong>consumer price index</strong></a>, so that new laws are always current and housing remains affordable for generations to come. But there is more to do and as your City Council member I will continue this work by reforming rent regulation, using market indices like the&nbsp;<a href="; target="_BLANK"><strong>consumer price index</strong></a>, and expanding affordable housing.<br><br>In addition to fixing affordable housing and rent regulation laws, we must also create a centralized affordable housing resource. Affordable housing must be&nbsp;<strong>transparent</strong>, with easily accessible and searchable lists by address and qualification, rather than having to search through over a dozen different programs and agencies. We must&nbsp;<strong>open</strong>&nbsp;affordable housing by creating an easy centralized application process. Lastly, the waiting lists for all affordable housing must be publicly available to provide&nbsp;<strong>accountability</strong>&nbsp;where these waiting lists have been previously abused.

West Side Rag The Omnipresence of Scaffolding and Its Impact on Lives; Why and What Is Being Done? by Ann Cooper

The Omnipresence of Scaffolding and Its Impact on Lives; Why and What Is Being Done?

What’s happened to attempts to get scaffolding taken down more quickly?
The main legislative attempt was a bill first introduced by then-District 5 City Council member Benjamin Kallos in 2016. The Kallos proposal would have given owners six months to finish repairs required by Local Law 11. After that, if a building façade still hadn’t been repaired, city employees would do the work and send the owner a bill. And the scaffolding would come down.

Soon after Kallos introduced his bill, the city unveiled its online map showing just how much scaffolding is out there and how long it’s stayed up. The New York Times editorial board hailed the map for revealing that sidewalk sheds can be “as durable and mysterious as the monoliths of Stonehenge.” It seemed like the map might give a boost to the Kallos proposal.

The bill did get a hearing in a city council committee, where restaurant and retail owners enthusiastically endorsed it, while the Real Estate Board of New York was opposed. The Department of Buildings testified that the city did not have the resources to step in and do repairs if owners didn’t make the deadline.

The bill never came up for a vote, though Kallos continued to speak out, labeling sidewalk sheds “the house guest that never leaves” and noting that some scaffolding “is almost old enough to vote.” His sound bites gained media attention but failed to build enough support among council colleagues. Kallos blames the real estate industry’s opposition for the death of his bill; Crain’s New York Business reported that it didn’t help when Kallos lost some clout in internal council politics, endangering the scaffolding bill that he had made a top priority.

Kallos was term limited out of his council seat and lost a bid for Manhattan Borough President last year. In a recent interview he told West Side Rag that he was not aware of any current council members planning to reintroduce his bill. As long as the city continues to allow unlimited time extensions, “no one’s forcing [building owners] to make the repairs,” he said.

WCBS 2 City Council Passes Bill Requiring NYC Homeowners, Tenants Who List Properties For Short-Term Rentals To Register With City by Andrea Grymes

City Council Passes Bill Requiring NYC Homeowners, Tenants Who List Properties For Short-Term Rentals To Register With City

The City Council has passed a bill that would require homeowners and tenants who list their properties on websites like Airbnb to pay a fee and register with the city. That way, the city can confirm if it’s legal to rent out that address.

All advertisements would then be required to include a valid registration number.

Upper East Side councilman Ben Kallos introduced the legislation.

“We have hotels in places for a reason, and we have residential neighborhoods for a reason, and no one wants to move into a building and find themselves surrounded by hotel rooms,” he said.

Kallos notes for buildings with more than three apartments, state law only allows short-term rentals for less than 30 days when the resident renting it out is home at the same time.

New York Times New York City, Facing Housing Crisis, Targets Illegal Airbnb Owners by Mihir Zaveri

New York City, Facing Housing Crisis, Targets Illegal Airbnb Owners

New legislation will require hosts of short-term rentals to register with the city — the latest move in a long battle between New York and the rental companies.

Airbnb recently announced that it had its best quarter ever, reflecting a surging thirst for travel and tourism as the pandemic’s grip loosens. But in New York City, the company is at the center of a different narrative: City leaders, after fighting for years to limit the proliferation of illegal short-term rentals, are poised to impose more stringent restrictions on the online platform.

The City Council on Thursday is expected to approve a bill that would for the first time require hosts to register with the city before renting out their homes on a short-term basis or for less than 30 days. The measure mirrors regulations in other cities like Boston and Santa Monica, Calif.

In New York City, one of Airbnb’s biggest domestic markets, city officials and housing advocates have long complained that landlords and tenants have exacerbated the housing crisis by circumventing laws and setting aside homes to rent out for a few days at a time to tourists or other visitors. Short-term rentals are often more lucrative than long-term leases.

And the hotel industry, which has been decimated by the pandemic, has long complained about Airbnb and similar online rental companies, accusing them off siphoning away business.

The new bill is designed to prevent rentals that violate those laws — including a New York State law that largely bars apartment rentals for less than 30 days when the host is not present — from even appearing online. Supporters said the new restrictions could lead to the gradual removal of thousands of listings for such illegal rentals from short-term rental websites.

“We don’t have enough housing, and anything we can do to put housing back on the market is a good thing,” said Councilman Ben Kallos, a Democrat who represents the Upper East Side and is a sponsor of the bill.

Upper East Side Patch Affordable Upper East Side Apartments For Sale On Housing Lottery by Nick Garber

Affordable Upper East Side Apartments For Sale On Housing Lottery

Eligible New Yorkers can apply online before the June 29 deadline. Kallos's office will host informational sessions at 6 p.m. on May 19 and June 16. (More information below).

A deal with the city

This week's listing came nearly four months after the lottery was first announced by City Councilmember Ben Kallos, who initially said they would be open for applications by Christmas.

That delay was a result of pricing disagreements between the developer and the city's Housing Preservation Department, as well as fluctuations in the city's real estate market during the pandemic, according to a spokesperson for Kallos.

Queens Daily Eagle NYC electeds rally for vote on housing voucher value boost by David Brand

NYC electeds rally for vote on housing voucher value boost

And Councilmember Ben Kallos, a candidate for Manhattan borough president, said raising the voucher value will help New Yorkers move from shelters and into “tens of thousands of vacant apartments in our city.” 

He said the city could go even further by moving families from shelters into empty condos. 

“If we took every single condo and put a homeless family in there, that would eliminate half the homeless in our shelters,” he said.

Upper East Side Patch Upper East Side Barely Added Housing Since 2010, New Study Finds by Nick Garber

Upper East Side Barely Added Housing Since 2010, New Study Finds

Those minimal gains come as the city faces what many observers consider a critical housing shortage. City Councilmember Ben Kallos, who has pushed to build more affordable housing on the Upper East Side, said Tuesday he was "shocked by the numbers," which were first reported by THE CITY.

"Anyone who lives on the Upper East Side will tell you that there's been nonstop construction," he said.

But Kallos was unsurprised that demolitions have been a factor, citing the sparsely-populated luxury developments that have popped up around the neighborhood in recent years — often replacing cheaper, denser housing.

AM New York Op-Ed | New York City has enough vacant apartments to house the homeless: It’s time to do it by Ben Kallos Fredrick Shack

Op-Ed | New York City has enough vacant apartments to house the homeless: It’s time to do it

Op-Ed | New York City has enough vacant apartments to house the homeless: It’s time to do it

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New York is not dead, but tens of thousands of apartments here are empty. This presents an unprecedented opportunity to house every New Yorker experiencing homelessness. As a city we have a moral mandate to permanently house our homeless now. We can do so by creating tens of thousands of affordable housing units in existing empty apartments, including in our tallest buildings and wealthiest neighborhoods. No matter what neighborhood we live in, we can all welcome unhoused New Yorkers onto our block and into our buildings.

This morning, over 18,000 children woke up in a city shelter. Just over 10,000 families account for a 30,000 person majority of those living in shelters. With over 15,000 vacant Manhattan rentals and 4,100 vacant condominiums dating back before the pandemic, we now have more vacant apartments than homeless families. The city should buy these vacant condominiums and secure long-term leases on vacant rental apartments to provide transitional and permanent housing for the homeless. Opening up space in family shelters would then allow single adults experiencing homelessness to utilize buildings currently used as family shelters, enabling social distancing and providing greater privacy than the dormitory style shelters, where the majority of single adults currently reside, sleeping in rooms with many people close together.

Prior to the pandemic, New York City paid $3.2 billion a year on costly shelter beds and commercial hotels. We pay far more to shelter families than it would cost to supplement their rent and provide them with a permanent home. According to the Mayor’s Management Report, it costs over $6,000 per month to provide shelter for a family with children, and approximately $3,900 per month to shelter a single adult, and those costs will rise this year to accommodate Covid-19 public safety measures. Meanwhile, the average length of stay in shelter has only gotten longer. According to last fiscal year’s reporting, families with children average 443 days at a shelter and single adults average 431 days—despite the thousands of vacant apartments waiting for renters.

New York City needs to be bold and start using these empty apartments to house our homeless.

The city should start by renting apartments directly, then sublet to homeless New Yorkers. While we currently spend over $6,000 per month to provide shelter, median rents in Manhattan have dropped to below $3,000. Even by renting apartments in expensive Manhattan neighborhoods, the city would see savings and could cover utilities, groceries and social services.

With historically low mortgage rates, buying condominiums and cooperatives to house the homeless would be an even better long-term investment. In fact, there are more than 4,600 homes and apartments for sale in New York City with 2 bedrooms or more, whose monthly payments would come in far below the $6,000 budgeted limit. The $6,000 a month high-water mark opens up our city’s wealthiest neighborhoods from the Upper East Side to Brooklyn Heights. Money saved on apartments at the lower end of the cost spectrum would bring savings and help pay for stabilizing social services from providers in the community. This would end the status quo where homeless shelters are disproportionately sited in poor neighborhoods, and it would help desegregate and open doors to all communities for formerly homeless New Yorkers.

We’ve tried incremental solutions that have not proven enough. The city offers a rent supplement called CityFHEPS that can be accessed by both those currently residing in shelter and those on the brink of eviction. Unfortunately, the voucher only allows rent well below Fair Market Rent, making it virtually impossible to use. Short of more sweeping action, passing City Council bill, Introduction 146, authored by General Welfare Chair Steven Levin would improve the functionality of this voucher by increasing the amount of rent it can cover.

The State must also step up and do its part. There are two bills in the State legislature to create state-wide housing subsidies: Assembly Member Andrew Hevesi’s Home Stability Support and  Senator Brian Kavanaugh’s Housing Access Voucher. Home Stability Support would provide a housing voucher that covers 85% of market rent to those who qualify for Public Assistance and are either homeless or face an eminent loss of housing. The Housing Access Voucher would be accessible to households with an income at or below 250% of the Federal Poverty Level (or less than $54,300 annually for a family of 3), and recipients would pay 30% of their income towards rent. These bills would go a long way toward enabling the city to finally secure permanent housing for all.

As many New Yorkers who are housed struggle to weather the economic storm caused by the pandemic, it might seem unfair to take such drastic measures to house the homeless. A New Yorker just barely making rent might worry that their new neighbor is dealing with drug and mental health problems and getting a handout without having done the same hard work. One might even fear that their new neighbor has lied or exploited the system in some way, an echo of the infamous myth of the “welfare queen.”

The reality is that evictions and lack of access to affordable housing are the primary cause of homelessness. As for the relatively small percentage of homeless New Yorkers who face mental health or substance use disorders, we must not criminalize these conditions, but rather introduce social services to help stabilize their lives. We know that housing first models work, and that in order for anyone to begin the process of receiving mental health treatment or reducing their substance use, they first need their most basic needs met: a warm bed to sleep in, a place to shower, and 3 meals a day.

Ultimately, the introduction of any new social safety net program will raise concerns about who is benefitting most and who is losing out. But when we begin to treat housing like a human right, this zero-sum game will take a back seat to meeting the basic expectations of a society that believes all people deserve a home.

Where some see New York City as dead with thousands of vacant apartments, we see the opportunity to permanently house our homeless. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. We can wake up in a city that is full and thriving, with housing occupied by families, children, and grateful neighbors. That’s a city we want to live in.

Ben Kallos is a New York City Council Member and Co-Founder of the Eastside Taskforce for Homeless Outreach and Services (ETHOS).

Frederick Shack is Chief Executive Officer at Urban Pathways, a leading nonprofit serving approximately 3,700 at-risk and homeless New Yorkers each year through a full continuum of services including street outreach, transitional housing, and permanent supportive housing residences. 

New York Daily News Open textbooks, in more ways than one: Save money and increase educational diversity with high-quality, up-to-date, learning options by By BEN KALLOS and CLAYTON BANKS

Open textbooks, in more ways than one: Save money and increase educational diversity with high-quality, up-to-date, learning options

Facing $800 million in proposed cuts to public schools, New York City is slated to continue spending $84 million a year on textbooks. That number is staggering, especially given that many of the textbooks are older than the teachers using themlargely Eurocentric and in some cases dictated by partisan politics. We can make these learning materials more reflective of New York City’s diversity and put limited resources to better use by adopting open textbooks.

More commonly known as “open educational resources” (OER), open textbooks are free for educators to use, customize to their students’ needs and backgrounds and share with others. Open textbooks are freely available from nonprofit groups like CK12OER Commons and OpenStax, and many are peer-reviewed and vetted for quality.