TAKING CONTROL OF RENT LAWS
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Councilmember Rosie Mendez, and Councilmember Erik Martin Dilan held a joint hearing on March 3rd on several measures that will protect tenants by controlling rents. Introduction 118 and Resolution 79 will provide New York City legislators with the power to implement policy regarding rent regulated units in the city and control over oversight and enforcement.
New York City represents 2.4 million New Yorkers living in rent-controlled and rent-stabilized apartments. If the city was able to have home rule over rents and eviction, it could consider a range of measures to address the affordable housing crisis by ending deregulation of units and protecting housing not currently subject to regulation.
WORKING FAMILIES’ AGENDA
This year, the Working Families Party has set two legislative priorities: introducing legislation that would leverage the state’s purchasing power to make prescription drugs more affordable and advocating for bill language that would require large businesses to spend at least a certain amount on health benefits for their workers.
The health benefits bill is called “Fair Share for Health Care,” and is similar to one under consideration in New Jersey which would tax employers with more than 100 workers the equivalent of $3 an hour per worker unless they provide coverage worth that much. The Working Families Party cited competitive pressure on businesses that provide health coverage and the costs to taxpayers for uninsured workers who use Medicaid and other programs as the reasons why the bill is needed.
As currently written, the bill would cover businesses employing over 4 million workers: 475,000 of these workers are uninsured, and approximately 150,000 are enrolled in Medicaid or other public health programs. The Working Families Party has argued that if two-thirds of these people gained employer coverage as a result of Fair Share, the number of uninsured would be cut by 10 percent and save taxpayers nearly $1 billion a year in public health spending. By setting a floor on employer spending, Fair Share will also make it hard for employers to continue increasing worker contributions and out-of-pocket costs.
LABOR’S HOUSING INVESTMENT
The AFL-CIO’s New York City Community Investment Initiative announced plans to spend $500 million over the next five years on housing and commercial development. Half of the investment, $250 million, will be earmarked to build and preserve affordable housing.
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and Central Labor Council President Brian McLaughlin said that the $840 million of investments made during the past four years have leveraged more than $2 billion in real estate value, developed or preserved more than 13,000 units of housing, provided 1,760 families with home financing and generated more than 7.2 million hours of union construction work.
The AFL-CIO’s Housing Investment Trust has also partnered with Union Plus Mortgage to provide $1 billion for home mortgages for AFL-CIO members and municipal workers in New York City. For additional information please visit www.aflcio-hit.com.