10/21/2013 11:33 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Let's Trade Rent-Stabilization for Real Housing Affordability

Housing costs in New York City are out of control and we must do something to address them before it's too late. We need to accomplish two key goals: market rate housing must be within reach for the middle class and affordable options must be available for lower income New Yorkers in every neighborhood.

To achieve these goals, I propose the creation of the NYC Affordable Housing Fund. This fund will be used to help families with incomes below the city median to live in an apartment that fits their needs without spending more than 30% of their family income. Participants will be chosen by lottery, and the amount of assistance will vary based on need. Participating New Yorkers can then use the portable benefit on whichever home they see fit. Under this system, affordable housing program participants are no longer tied to a specific building or unit, allowing for easy relocation if jobs or family needs change.

An initiative like this sounds expensive, right? To cover the costs, I would combine this program with modifications to an existing housing program.

Rent-stabilization is a program many New Yorkers have benefitted from since the end of World War II (even today, 81.6% of apartments below 96th Street in Manhattan are regulated). However, rent-stabilization has the nasty side effect of dramatically driving up market rents for anyone not lucky enough to have a rent-stabilized unit. Many New Yorkers are also surprised to learn that there is no income guideline to determine eligibility for a rent-stabilized apartment. If you're lucky enough to find it first (and you get your application paperwork in on time), the bargain apartment is yours for the keeping.

I propose to change the rules for what happens when a tenant chooses to vacate a rent-stabilized apartment (there will be no changes for current rent-stabilized tenants). Currently, an apartment remains rent-stabilized when one tenant vacates and another moves in. Instead of forcing the landlord to participate in a rent subsidy scheme that in no way targets those New Yorkers most in need, let's allow landlords to make a one-time cash payment to buy out of rent regulation. These proceeds will be directed straight into the NYC Affordable Housing Fund where they will help families with incomes below the city median, not high-income residents lucky enough to have found a perpetually under-priced apartment. This plan not only benefits lower income New Yorkers by increasing the size of the Affordable Housing Fund, but it also benefits the middle class by adding another market rate apartment to the housing supply. With fewer restrictions, landlords will invest in improvements to existing housing stock and the construction of new units in the years to come.

This is a bold plan that completely re-envisions how we view the housing stock in our city and how we help those most in need of assistance. However, New Yorkers deserve the best, and bold thinking is what it will take to create an environment of affordability across the income spectrum. I will deliver bold solutions to New Yorkers to make this city a place where individuals of all incomes can thrive and prosper.

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.