When it comes to the cities of this world with the largest homeless population, our very own New York City comes second, with over 70,000 homeless. This startling figure went up since March of 2017 when it was around 60,000, and shows no indication of going down.
Despite this, New York City continues to fight to rehabilitate the homeless and fight for affordable housing, but still, the city is in a housing deficit. Median monthly rents have risen around $300 since 2000, but the median income for renters hasn’t kept up with that, rising only $145 a month. Although Governor Andrew Cuomo has fought for affordable housing and to combat homelessness, there is always more that can be done for one of the most marginalized communities in New York City.
Affordable housing units are given based on a how much a person earns as compared to the area median income, or AMI. Housing can be given to someone making 20 percent of the AMI or 120 percent of the AMI, but there’s never enough housing and the lottery to get a unit is almost impossible. In May of 2017, the odds of winning an affordable housing lottery were 1000 to 1, with the chances worsening as homeless and low-income populations rise.
One of the best ways to combat the homelessness crisis and help people living below the poverty line would be to find ways to create more affordable housing and help the homeless get back on their feet. Doing this would be difficult and would require someone in an elected position fighting more and more for these marginalized communities. The only problem here is getting someone into this elected position — to do this they have to be voted in, but the community that needs helping is one of the least likely to vote.
Low-income individuals are among the least likely to vote for many reasons. Often, they have no time to do this, working multiple jobs and feeding families. Other times, local laws and governments make it difficult to vote through restrictive voting laws. Minorities tend to wait longer to vote than any other groups, according to The Atlantic. This could be attributed to larger population densities in areas where minorities are dominant, but it still bogs down poll booths and makes it more difficult for people to find the time they need to vote.
This leaves the upcoming election for lieutenant governor as a key election in how New York’s affordable housing crisis is dealt with. It’s an opportunity to take a title that could enact a lot of good.
Currently, the two candidates vying for the position are the incumbent Kathy Hochul, who is the 77th lieutenant governor of New York, and Jumaane Williams, a council member representing the 45th Council District in Brooklyn. Williams, who served as a council member since being elected in 2009, would be in a position where he could affect a lot of good for the housing problem in New York City if elected. It would be interesting to see what Williams does with the position.
Traditionally, the lieutenant governor position is used to push the governors agenda. Since Hochul is Cuomo’s previous lieutenant governor and his choice for the positon, Cuomo and Williams would have to come to terms with not being running partners in the November general elections. In the general elections the governor and the lieutenant governor run together, while in the September primaries, the lieutenant governors run independently.
Although there might be friction between the two of them if Williams goes to the November general election, it is certain that Williams is going to have to plan more to help the low-income disenfranchised if he wants votes from that demographic.
Williams states that he has fought for affordable housing his entire time as an elected official — a term he prefers to politician — but affordable housing generally only targets low-income individuals or families. The potential lieutenant governor has yet to address how he’ll affect positive change for people who live way below the poverty line — people who could be valuable voters. Williams still has much to do in ways of campaigning and proving he is really looking out for all of New York city and all it’s different people.