THE BLOG

A Path to an Affordable New York City

10/07/2013 04:31 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

New York is without question the world's greatest city. I am running for mayor to ensure we keep it that way. I believe in policies that reduce friction for individuals and businesses and allow for progress. As mayor, I will seek to enact new approaches to make housing more affordable, clean up the complicated and burdensome tax code, and stimulate job creation. While these are supposedly common goals, it is in the solutions where my ideas stand out.

First, half of our middle income residents spend more than the recommended 30 percent of income on housing, making it difficult to find money to pay for basic household needs, let alone save for retirement. Other candidates talk about the importance of building new affordable housing units, but merely "building" units for a lucky few without truly creating a climate of housing affordability will never solve the problem. We do not need a government program to build affordable housing for middle class families -- a market rate apartment should be within reach.

Very few civic leaders discuss the root cause of high housing costs. One of the primary reasons housing prices are so high in New York City is because of restrictive zoning that puts an extremely prohibitive limitation on housing supply. By artificially constraining construction, the zoning code raises prices for everyone and requires the average New Yorker to undertake a lengthy commute.

Our city's current zoning resolution was first adopted in 1961, a time when planners designed for automobiles and thought Le Corbusier's "towers in the park" design theme was the ideal. However, the New York City of 2013 is a much different place. We want easy access to public transportation and we want street-level shops, convenient grocery stores, and other community amenities within walking distance.

My plan would accelerate permitting and create a new zoning resolution to last us for the next 50 years. The new code will allow for construction of the housing and outer-borough commercial space this city desperately needs -- especially near the subway -- and deliver shorter commutes and more affordable homes for all New Yorkers.

Second, our tax code is too complicated and far too burdensome. For example, the city property tax penalizes rental buildings with a rate more than five times higher than that of condos and co-ops. This tax is passed along to renters, costing the average family $1,500 per year in additional rent. At the same time, new luxury condos often go nearly untaxed for over a decade.

I propose equalizing the property tax rate across all buildings and putting an end to tax abatements on future luxury condos (or any condos for that matter). Fair is fair, and all property owners should pay their fair share based on the value of their property.

New York is also one of the only municipalities in the country to levy a city income tax. This additional tax burden reduces take-home pay for local workers. I will lower the city's income tax to a flat 1 percent, returning $1,500 per year to the median household. This is money that can be used to pay off loans, save for college, or shop in local businesses.

This tax cut will be funded by changing how the city prices on-street parking. Meter prices can be set weekly based on supply and demand with a goal of always having one space available on every block. Cities around the world are adopting this new way of thinking about parking to better manage city resources, reduce traffic (30 percent of urban traffic is cars circling for a parking space), and allow for tax reductions without cutting important city programs. Consider that the average parking garage in midtown charges visitors $10 or more per hour for short-term parking while our street meters only ask for $3.50. The city owns four million spaces, and the extra revenue from charging market prices for on-street parking can fund a reduction in city income taxes for New Yorkers.

Finally, New York's high cost of living makes it difficult for leading companies to grow their number of jobs in the city. Why would a high tech company hire a programmer in the city when they can hire a similarly skilled worker in Texas at half the price because housing is significantly more affordable?

Bringing housing costs in line with local incomes and lessening one of the nation's largest tax burdens will go a long way to stimulating job growth in the city but we also need to limit regulatory restrictions to make sure New York is the preferred destination for entrepreneurs and large corporations alike.

We must remind local residents that saying no to a new restaurant permit in their neighborhood means saying no to a new small business, no to local jobs that pay better than national chains, and no to a training ground for the next local small business owner.

While New York is the world's best city, it's not perfect, but our problems are solvable. I will fight fiercely to bring about the changes we need and promote smart and simple policies that promote progress while allowing residents to stay in the neighborhoods they helped to build.

Editor's note: Joe Melaragno is an employee of AOL, which owns The Huffington Post. His work at AOL does not involve editorial decisions and he does not work directly with the editorial team. His positions in the campaign are his own. Blogs on this site are part of a platform available to a wide range of people, including candidates, and do not represent an editorial endorsement.

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