Billions for Housing, A Citywide Swipe and Childcare for All

Eric Adams and Andrew Yang were among the 2021 candidates who highlighted policy ideas as the campaign moved to within 50 days of election day.

Adi Talwar

Andrew Yang says he plans to shift away from Bill de Blasio’s strategy of primarily rezoning low-income neighborhoods like East Harlem to instead put new density into ‘transit-rich, high-income’ areas.

The 2021 primary campaign has moved into its final 50 days, with only 40 to go until early voting begins, and the focus for most candidates has shifted away from unveiling new policies. Mayoral hopefuls Shaun Donovan and Maya Wiley are sending out daily reminders of some of the detailed policy ideas they’ve already proposed. Most candidates are focusing on rolling out endorsements (or, in one candidate’s case, seeing endorsements slip away). Still, a few big ticket ideas did come down the pipe in the past week or so, and we briefly note them below in this the 12th edition of our 2021 pre-primary “Policy Shop.”

Yang’s housing plan

Andrew Yang’s housing plan combines large financial and unit commitments—$4 billion in spending a year and 250,000 units produced over eight years—with dramatic changes to the way the city currently makes decisions about what to build and where. Yang calls for comprehensive planning system, but also a speedier land-use review process (“It’s counterproductive to waste months in one hearing after another, waiting for advisory votes, when we often know what the right thing to do is.”) He wants to end “member deference” and shift from Mayor de Blasio’s approach of rezoning mainly low-income communities of color to instead focusing on “transit-rich, high-income” neighborhoods. Yang’s plan also briefly mentions supportive housing and land trusts, and calls for legalizing accessory dwelling units, okaying micro-apartments, and recognizing co-living as a way to create new affordable space. In terms of income tiers, Yang targets the new housing at 80 percent AMI or below, with city capital support focused on families making less than 40 percent AMI.

Adams on childcare

One lesson driven home by the pandemic is just how difficult it is to perform virtually any job without adequate childcare—and for many primarily in-person careers, it is essential. It’s also hard to find and tough to pay for. Mayoral candidate Eric Adams believes that by offering incentives to property owners to give free space to childcare providers, he can bring the cost of childcare down enough to make it available to every family and essentially free to households making less than $100,000 a year—at least when other new federal and city subsidies are rolled in. The costs of those subsidies and incentives would be covered, Adams says, by renegotiating the expensive Manhattan leases that many city agencies are locked into and moving those offices to cheaper outer-borough space and making use of remote work. The Brooklyn BP estimates that over five years the city could save as much as $250 million—a quarter of its office leasing costs. It’s unclear whether the city’s leases and landlords will afford that much flexibility, and uncertain what impact that withdrawal from Manhattan might have on the larger office market, but Adams says his childcare program would target the lowest-income families in the neediest areas first.

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