Access to safe, affordable housing is essential for every American. However, in our district, for both renters and home buyers, it’s increasingly difficult to afford a home. For those in every income bracket, a larger portion of their income is going to housing than ever before. For many New Yorkers there is just not enough left over for other essentials, including food and health care.

I grew up in a city housing project and I don’t know what my life would have been like had my parents not had the assistance they needed to afford our home. We must reverse the incredible cuts to public housing by the current administration.

In response to reports that the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) had, as recently as 2013, shut down boilers in public housing properties unless outside temperatures dropped below 25 degrees Fahrenheit, I authored a measure with Congresswoman Grace Meng to protect public housing residents from insufficient heat during winter months. This legislation was signed into law by President Obama. Forcing residents to go without heat, during the coldest months of the year is a reckless and demeaning practice. Every American living in public housing deserves a safe and comfortable place to live.

While the Trump administration continually slashes funding for federal housing programs, I have secured over $8,000,000 in grants for the Cities of Mount Vernon, New Rochelle and Yonkers to improve housing stock. These include:

  •   Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) to develop viable urban communities by providing decent housing and a suitable living environment, and by expanding economic opportunities for low- and moderate-income persons.
  •   Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program provides essential funding for services and shelter for the homeless population, rapidly re-house homeless individuals and families, and prevents families/individuals from becoming homeless. 
  •   The HOME Program, which helps to expand the supply of decent, affordable housing to low- and very low-income families through grants to local housing programs that meet local needs and priorities.

Federal programs often overlook the needs of co-op and condominium owners. I wrote legislation, with Congressman Jerry Nadler, the Disaster Assistance Support for Communities and Homeowners Act of 2017, to provide federal disaster relief to co-op and condo owners. Under prior federal law, only single-family homeowners were eligible. 

Co-op owners aged 62 and older are likewise excluded from participation in a “reverse mortgage” through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program. This program allows homeowners to convert a portion of the equity in their home into cash.

Congress has allowed those who own units in a co-op to participate in this valuable program through language in P.L. 106-569 and P.L. 110-289. Despite Congressional action on this issue, and the considerable benefits that this program could bring to older co-op owners, HUD has not yet issued regulations to implement this portion of the statute. I have requested HUD expedite this process and issue these needed regulations as soon as possible.

Home ownership remains the American Dream. Congress must increase funding and simplify the process for first-time homeowners to obtain grants for down payments. We must also ensure financial institutions engage in fair lending practices, making reasonable financing available for home owners without repeating the predatory lending practices that contributed to the Great Recession of 2008. And we must find a way to reverse the heartbreaking decline in home ownership rates among the African-American community, which has reached a fifty-year low. We cannot allow redlining and other discriminatory practices that have contributed to this decline. We also must rectify the student debt crisis, a crushing burden that is making the dream of home ownership even more challenging for today’s young people.