Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged to tackle the skyrocketing cost of living in New York in his annual State of the City speech on Monday night.
“We understand that the affordability crisis is a fundamental and a profound problem. It is deep but it is not complex. The math is real simple – housing costs kept rising and rising but incomes didn’t,” said de Blasio, speaking at the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem.
The Mayor explained that from 1990 to 2014 the average rent in New York increased by 22%, whereas over an even longer period real wages went up by just 1%.
“This affordability crisis threatens who we are, threatens the very soul of the city, and people have told me so many times, with such passion, that they feel their own city slipping away,” he said.
He promised to create 100,000 “good paying jobs”, each paying a minimum of $50,000, to raise incomes for tens of thousands of households, including 3,000 as part of the city’s new Green Jobs Corp, set up to adapt New York for a low emissions future.
A wave of initiatives already underway will make housing more affordable for more than three million New Yorkers, he added. These include a rent freeze impacting 2.5 million tenants, an affordable housing plan to meet the needs of 500,000 residents, schemes for veterans and low-income families, plus a Mansion Tax, on the sale of homes over $2 million in value, which de Blasio said will raise $336 million to provide affordable housing for 25,000 senior citizens.
The Mayor also affirmed his commitment to providing a Right to Counsel to low-income tenants in housing court. The legislation guarantees legal help for families under 200% of the federal poverty line.
“If you are facing illegal eviction, you get a lawyer,” de Blasio explained.
De Blasio, Mayor since 2014, has declared he will seek the Democratic Party nomination for re-election in November this year. He faces a crowded field in the primary, in which at least six other candidates have announced they are running.
The focus on affordability in his State of the City speech suggests this will form the cornerstone of his campaign.
“We are not going to let the progress we have made slip away,” he said.