Mayor Adams says his new housing team will focus on affordability

Mayor Eric Adams unveiled a new housing team during a press conference at City Hall Sunday afternoon, during which he vowed to meet his campaign promise to create, preserve, and maintain affordable housing in an equitable way.

“I said from day one of my campaign that we are going to end the housing affordability crisis, and this is the team of extraordinary leaders who will do just that,” Adams said.

The bitter cold of winter has been a stark reminder of the housing disparities that exist within New York City with the continued failure of heat, gas, and hot water in sites such as the Woodside Houses — a plight that has continued for many years. Adams declared that the string of violence in New York City has overshadowed attention on housing issues. However, thanks to a new housing team, he hopes to provide meaningful change with access to safe spaces to live, which include monitoring NYCHA buildings who he says deal with a repeated lack of repairs.

Chief Housing Officer Jessica Katz and Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Adolfo Carrión Jr. join the mayor’s housing team alongside the President of the Housing Development Corporation Eric Enderlin, who remains in the position.  

Mayor Eric Adams announced his new housing team on Jan. 30 in City Hall. Photo by Dean Moses

Adams stressed that this new team will focus on creating affordable housing and reducing costs in all five boroughs, and reiterated that the prospect of building more homeless shelters is not the solution to solving the issues for the unhoused. He also added that statistically children who grow up homeless are less likely to graduate high school, which perpetuates the cycle of uneducated more likely to face incarceration.

“I know how important a roof is over your head. It’s more than just four walls. I think it’s a precursor to the American dream to allow you a job to enjoy the American experience and too many people are waking up in the nightmarish reality of not having affordable, clean, decent housing and their concern is that they live on the edge of homelessness,” Adams said. “A housing system cannot be built on just shelters. We cannot think that we are doing our job by the mere fact that we build a shelter at a different location. No. Housing is a space to raise healthy children and families and it’s a feeder to success.” 

Mayor reaffirms his promise to create, preserve, and maintain affordable housing in an equitable way. Photo by Dean Moses

Katz, who has over 20 years of experience, emphasized that her goal is to create a “people-oriented” system rather than a paper-based agency that forces individuals and families to retell their traumatizing experiences over and over again, despite housing organizations already having that information on file when it is first reported.  

The new Chief Housing Officer also laid out several changes she will help make to create an organization that’s main focus is good customer service by building a supportive housing system that allows individuals to thrive on their own as well as expanding resources to provide the tools necessary to create more opportunities such as basement apartment, and converting underused hotels and offices.

“I see it as my mission to make sure that tenants, homeowners, and the development community have fewer administrative burdens as they navigate the city’s housing programs. I want to make sure that our system is designed around people, not paperwork, and that we find ways to house New Yorkers quickly without asking people the same re-traumatizing questions over and over again, at the very moment when they need the government’s support the most,” Katz said.

Chief Housing Officer Jessica Katz. Photo by Dean Moses

Additional priorities of the housing team will also consist of up zoning areas with robust infrastructure and around major transit hubs and the creation Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).

This appointment was a personal matter for Carrión, who shared that he is the son of Puerto Rican parents who migrated to New York City in the 1950s. The family moved from a tenement basement apartment in Williamsburg to NYCHA’s Jacob Riis Houses and HUD-assisted Haven Plaza on the Lower East Side. He credits the help of an FHA mortgage that allowed his family to pursue their dream of owning a home in the Bronx.

Housing Preservation Commissioner Adolfo Carrión Jr. Photo by Dean Moses

 “There is no greater responsibility we share than to build nurturing communities that provide families an affordable and safe place to live and an opportunity to move up the economic ladder,” said Carrión Jr. “We’re going to work hard to create neighborhoods of opportunity, where families have a chance to get ahead.”

Adams calls housing the precursor to the American dream. Photo by Dean Moses