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Chapter Summary

Savas, E. S., ed. 1992. Privatization for New York: Competing for a Better Future. The Lauder Report; A report of the NYS Senate Advisory Commission on Privatization. New York.

Chapter 9: Housing in New York City (Jack Richman)

Richman's chapter addresses several aspects of government involvement in the New York City housing market: rent regulation, public housing, housing vouchers, housing owned by city government due to tax arrears foreclosure, and housing the homeless.

The discussion of rent regulation is pertinent only to New York City, and is not germane to this audience. Briefly, Richman argues that rent regulation has limited housing revenue, preventing routine maintenance and stifling new housing construction. Further, rent control subsidizes middle and upper class tenants more than more mobile low-income residents. He recommends eliminating rent regulation for high-income households, when subsidized residents vacate the dwelling, and for apartments that rent for $1,000/month or more.

Other topics are pertinent to housing markets in other parts of New York State and the nation. Richman recommends tenant screening by public housing residents to increase safety and rent payment rates. As an alternative to public housing, he recommends vouchers to subsidize housing consumers rather than producers. Vouchers provide freedom of choice to residents and introduce market competition into subsidized housing provision, which may help to alleviate the housing shortage which is the only limit Richman sees to housing vouchers in New York City.

One of Richman's primary goals for housing in New York City is to keep it on the tax rolls. When housing is owned by government due to tax foreclosure or by a not-for-profit cooperative housing agency, it is not yielding property tax revenues to the city. He advocates two measures to minimize city ownership of housing due to foreclosure: 1) conducting realistic tax assessments of properties including reassessing properties in marginal areas already owing back taxes, and 2) selling at public auction all housing obtained through foreclosure to return the property promptly to the tax rolls. Richman also supports eliminating legal barriers to residents of public housing purchasing their units.

Because not having shelter is often a function of other very broad problems such as alcohol or drug abuse or mental illness, homelessness cannot be solved through housing alone. However, encouraging privately-owned and operated shelters and Single Room Occupancy (SRO) dwelling units through tax policy, zoning ordinances, and building codes can ameliorate the problem.