CDP collaborates with a number of its partner organizations to advocate with federal, state and local elected officials for legislative and policy changes to benefit New York City's low-income communities and improve low-income New Yorkers' quality of life. Examples of this work include:
Accessory Dwelling Units
In partnership with Chhaya CDC, Make the Road NY and the New York Immigration Community, we are embarking on a campaign to legalize certain basement apartments known as accessory dwelling units. As a potential source of low-income housing in New York City, accessory dwelling units, especially in the midst of the current housing shortage, are a viable option for the many low-income and immigrant residents of Queens who are priced out of the formal housing market. Legalizing accessory dwelling units would provide more affordable housing options and make the current conditions of these basement apartments much safer and more hygienic. Regulating these apartments would benefits tenants, landlords, and the city by providing safe, affordable housing as well as a steady stream of legal revenue.
Asthma Free Homes
In 2007, various community and advocacy organizations formed the Coalition for Asthma Free Homes (CAFH) in order to advocate for solutions to reduce indoor asthma triggers in New York City. There is an undeniable relationship between asthma and poor housing conditions such as cockroach and mice infestations and mold. Because the current housing code does not recognize the correlation between asthma and housing conditions, asthma disproportionately affects low-income and minority New Yorkers. CDP is currently working to ensure the passage of the Asthma Free Housing Act, which would greatly improve the city's code enforcement system to reduce indoor allergens in homes by mandating a procedure used for mold remediation and removal of vermin.
Beyond Ground Zero Network
This network, known as BGZ, was formed in the wake of September 11th by low-income, working immigrants and people of color living in Chinatown and the Lower East Side to address the health impact of 9/11 on under-served communities in Lower Manhattan. In addition to organizing and operating a groundbreaking partnership with Bellevue Hospital to provide screening, treatment and monitoring to low-income, uninsured residents suffering from 9/11-related health problems, BGZ has also conducted wide-scale surveys of low-income residents of these neighborhoods from 2002 to the present, revealing that thousands of residents and workers are still coping with severe 9/11-related illnesses without access to health care or assistance of any kind. Currently, BGZ is using the data from these surveys to advocate with federal, state and local officials to include residents in 9/11 health-related services offered through the federal government, which are currently restricted to rescue and cleanup workers. BGZ is also advocating for government funds to provide screening and treatment for low-income residents affected by 9/11, as well as extensive research into the long-term health effects that exposed residents are likely to face.
Campaign to Convert Vacant Luxury Condos into Low-Income Housing
In May 2010, with the research and writing support of the Community Development Project, the Right to the City-NYC officially released a report, "People without Homes and Homes without People: A Count of Vacant Condos in Select NYC Neighborhoods." In conjunction with this research, CDP has been working with the Right to the City-NYC alliance to develop a comprehensive and pragmatic policy plan and financial analysis to convert empty condominiums, scattered throughout low-income neighborhoods in New York City, into housing for low-income people. Among these policy options are recommendations to seize vacant condos through tax foreclosure and eminent domain, and to convert them into permanent, low-income housing such as public housing or a community land trust. Additionally, RTTC-NYC, with the continued support of CDP, is working with city council members to develop innovative legislation that would impose fees and suspend tax breaks on buildings warehoused for more than a year.
"People Without Homes and Homes Without People: A Count of Vacant Condos In Select NYC Neighborhoods," Report by Right to the City-NYC and CDP, May 2010
Domestic Workers Bill of Rights
Domestic workers often face a hostile work environment of low pay, long hours, no health care or sick leave, arbitrary treatment, and little to no formal rights. To combat this problem, CDP is working closely with Domestic Workers United to pass a Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights. Such a bill would guarantee basic work standards and protections granted to most other workers in the United States by ensuring domestic workers are provided a limited number of paid sick days, personal days, and vacation days; notice and severance pay; yearly raises tied to inflation; full overtime pay for any work over 40 hours per week; one day of rest per week; protection from employment discrimination; and health benefits.
Keeping HDFC's affordable
Housing Development Fund Corporations, or HDFCs, are limited equity cooperatives. HDFCs are meant to serve as low-income housing, but due to poor government oversight and lack of clear regulations, many of these low income apartments are selling at market rates. CDP along with the HDFC Coalition is advocating for amendments to PHFL Article XI that would create resale caps for the apartments to keep them affordable over the long term.
National Effort to Preserve and Expand Public Housing
Over the past two years, CDP's Research and Policy initiative has been working with the Right to the City Alliance (RTTC), along with other resource organizations such as the Advancement Project, to coordinate a national effort to preserve and expand public housing. In May 2010, RTTC, with the research and logistical support of CDP, released a national grassroots research report called, "We Call These Projects Home: Solving the Housing Crisis from the Ground Up." CDP is now working with RTTC to prevent the passage of new legislation from the Department of Housing and Urban Development that would privatize public housing and effectively threaten the availability and accessibility of permanently affordable housing for low-income people. This Federal legislation, the "The Preservation, Enhancement and Transformation of Rental Assistance Act of 2010 (PETRA)" was introduced in the House in May 2010 and is awaiting vote by the Financial Services Committee. You can read RTTC's statement, submitted to the House Financial Services Committee on May 25, 2010.
"We Call These Projects Home: Solving the Housing Crisis from the Ground Up," A Right to the City Alliance Report on Public Housing, May 2010
In light of the recent financial and housing market collapse, CDP has prioritized protecting consumers from over-aggressive private equity, or “predatory equity.” The pressure for profit under Wall Street's current financial model is so great that many landlords are raising rents to a level unaffordable to many tenants and, as a result, greatly threatening the security of the institution of affordable housing and undermining the stability of New York City's communities. Alongside the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD), CDP is working with various tenant associations and community based organizations around the city in order to defend tenants who, because of rent increases, are faced with the possibility of displacement from their buildings as well as bring affirmative litigation to asserts tenants rights to maintain decent affordable housing.
Right to Counsel
Every year, more than 25,000 households are evicted in New York City. Senior citizens' cases account for about 6.5 percent of the total. Over three-quarters of seniors facing eviction have an annual income less than $25,000 per year, making it virtually impossible for them to hire a private attorney. The existing legal services and legal aid programs lack the resources to meet the overwhelming need, and as a result, the vast majority of senior citizens are forced to navigate housing court alone, without an attorney. In response to this problem, a broad coalition of tenant advocates, community groups and providers of legal services to the indigent propose legislation intended to meet the legal needs of one of the most vulnerable segments of the community: very low-income older people. This legislation establishes that individuals who are 62 years old and older, who meet the income guidelines established in the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) program, and who are facing an eviction proceeding from their rental unit in the five boroughs will be eligible to have a lawyer to represent them. The legislation also requires the City to establish an Office of the Civil Justice Coordinator that will designate the organizations that are eligible to accept assignments to provide free legal services to eligible tenants.
Stimulus Oversight and Transparency
As part of the New York State Stimulus Oversight Working Group, CDP is involved in tracking all stimulus money down to the state and local level to ensure all funds are spent ethically, honestly, effectively and fairly. To that end, the Working Group has proposed a mechanism called the Taxpayers' Right to Know, which would ensure that New Yorkers can track stimulus-related investments all the way from the U.S. Treasury right on down to how it is being spent in each individual community. Under the Taxpayers' Right to Know, New York's accountability standards would go further than federal standards and would guarantee a far more detailed reporting of how stimulus funds are spent in order to allow consumers to track and view stimulus-related funds in a much more efficient and transparent manner.
As part of our workers' rights practice area, CDP worked closely with the National Employment Law Project to develop a report on wage theft in New York City. This report, entitled, “Working Without Laws: A Survey of Employment and Labor Law Violations in New York City,” discovered that violations of employment and labor laws are prevalent and that many employers, not just those on the periphery of the economy, violate minimum wage, overtime, meal break, and other laws regarding employment and labor. This report established recommendations for how New York City can strengthen worker protections and suggested strengthening government enforcement of workplace protections and strengthening New York City's role in enforcement.