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.

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.

Upper East Side Patch Council Rep To Hold Info Session On Roosevelt Island Apt Lottery by Brendan Krisel

Council Rep To Hold Info Session On Roosevelt Island Apt Lottery

ROOSEVELT ISLAND, NY — Roosevelt Island's representative in the City Council is hosting an information session with the developers of a new development on the island about a lottery for more than 300 below-market units in the building.

Councilman Ben Kallos, who also represents the Upper East Side, will educate residents on how to apply for apartments at the new Hudson Related development River Walk Park. The Roosevelt Island development is offering units to people earning 40, 50, 80, 130 and 165 percent of the area median income. The city Department of Housing Preservation and Development classifies these income levels as ranging from "very-low income to middle income."

The info session will be held Tuesday, June 30 at 6 p.m., just about one week before the housing lottery's July 6 application deadline, according to Kallos' office. Those interested in attending can sign up for the virtual event on the councilmember's website.

Letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio proposing $15.24 billion in potential savings and revenue in order to invest $827 million in spending on programs that support children, families, seniors, and our planet

Monday, June 15, 2020

As we face unprecedented times and a budget that must-see painful cuts, we should look for possible waste and opportunities for revenues and savings. I have proposed $15.24 billion in potential savings and revenue for our city’s budget in order to invest $827 million in spending on programs that support children, families, seniors, and our planet that will reduce costs and generate revenues. 

New York Times 25 Million Applications: The Scramble for N.Y.C. Affordable Housing by Matthew Haag

25 Million Applications: The Scramble for N.Y.C. Affordable Housing

[F]or many New Yorkers, the most desirable jackpot is not the New York Lotto, but to be selected in the city’s extraordinarily competitive affordable-housing lottery. Tens of thousands of people, and sometimes many more, vie for the handful of units available at a time. Since 2013, there have been more than 25 million applications submitted for roughly 40,000 units....

While the lottery website’s user interface will have an entirely new design, the most significant changes are under the hood. After applicants create profiles stating their household size and household income, which together determine a person’s eligibility, they will be shown apartments that they are most likely to qualify for.

That is a significant change from the old system, in which applicants typically applied to every building on the lottery site without knowing if they were even eligible. That process led some units to receive more than 100,000 applicants, most of whom would never find out that they were ineligible from the beginning.

There were other major problems too, like the site randomly crashing and freezing. City officials said the entire lottery system has been upgraded to improve its usability and stability.

“One of the biggest frustrations was people not hearing if you were accepted and not hearing if you were rejected,” said Luis Daniel Caridad, an assistant director at GOLES, an organization on the Lower East Side of Manhattan that helps people apply for affordable housing. “We’ve been told that it has been fundamentally changed, and we are hopeful.”

For years, the housing lottery only included newly constructed units. When someone moved into one and then left, the vacated apartments did not return to the lottery. Buildings kept their own waiting lists, leading to allegations to those with political connections or who paid bribes could cut in line.

Some of those vacant units will now be entered in the lottery, allowing everyone to be made aware when they become available. Councilman Ben Kallos, who wrote the legislation that requires past rentals to return to the lottery, said the change would eventually bring thousands of units back into the lottery every month.

“Before this, you had waiting lists and you had folks who might be politically connected with an official who knew buildings that had affordable housing,” said Mr. Kallos, a Democrat who represents the Upper East Side of Manhattan. “This means that all the vacant units in the system will be re-rented quickly.” ...