As U.S. Rep. Crowley pivots away from public housing and offers tax approaches to rent burden, he finds support from a real estate-backed group

By LOUIS FLORES

As U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Queens) begins a reëlection year, a real estate-backed housing group has expressed political support for his housing proposals. An election year platform put forth by U.S. Rep. Crowley, named, "A Better Deal for Queens and The Bronx," includes a proposal to offer tenants rent relief in the form of a tax credit. U.S. Rep. Crowley has received political support from the real estate-linked group as published reports have revealed that he is relying on real estate developers as sources of donations to three of his political committees.

The group that is backing U.S. Rep. Crowley's housing policies, the New York Housing Conference Inc., is a real estate developer-backed nonprofit group. Its Board of Directors includes Mark Willis, a senior policy fellow at the NYU Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, a political think tank that is funded by real estate developers. Its Advisory Board includes Aaron Koffman from The Hudson Companies Inc. and Ronald Moelis from L+M Development Partners. The Hudson Companies Inc. was briefly the subject of a probe in connection with a reported Federal corruption investigation after the de Blasio administration agreed to sell the Brooklyn Heights Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library to the politically-connected real estate development firm. L+M Development Partners was one of the real estate development firms that invested in a consortium that, in turn, bought, in secret, a portfolio of project-based, Section 8 apartment complexes from a cash-strapped New York City Housing Authority.

The Government's pivot away from its commitment to public housing is taking place as NYCHA, the local housing authority, faces a crisis with lead poisoning, toxic mold, and a capital improvement budget deficit estimated to be $17 billion.

The tax credit that U.S. Rep. Crowley is offering tenants, which is the key provision in the Rent Relief Act (H.R. 3670), stops short of regulating residential rents paid for by tenants. Instead, it forces the Government to essentially subsidise the upward spiraling rents paid by tenants by giving tenants a tax credit for rent paid in excess of 30 per cent. of a tenant's income. Separately, U.S. Rep. Crowley has expressed support for the Family Self-Sufficiency Act (H.R. 4258), which would advance the Government's receding commitment to public housing under the New Deal-era law, the Housing Act of 1937 and, instead, place more emphasis on the Section 8 housing voucher program.

Rachel Fee, the executive director of New York Housing Coalition Inc., did not immediately answer advance questions submitted by Progress Queens for this report. Lauren French, a spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Crowley, did not answer a press inquiry.

Progress Queens has published a report that revealed that real estate interests were the largest source of donations to U.S. Rep. Crowley's committee to reëlect in the 2016 election cycle, and a real estate developer was the largest source of donations to U.S. Rep. Crowley's Super-PAC. Crain's New York Business has published a report that revealed that real estate developers used a myriad of limited liability companies to donate, by one estimate, at least $190,000 to the Democratic Organization of Queens County, the Democratic Party committee chaired by U.S Rep. Crowley, in the time before U.S. Rep. Crowley selected the new speaker of the New York City Council, Councilmember Corey Johnson (D-Chelsea). The Council speaker possesses powers and authorities, and is able to exert discretion, over matters involving changes in zoning laws and land use applications. 

Tenants in Queens and The Bronx, as in the remainder of New York City, have been experiencing an affordability crisis that The New York Review of Books has described as a "humanitarian emergency" due to an upward spiral in rents due to Government-sponsored policies, including tax policies, that support gentrification.

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