New York City owes a debt of gratitude to its essential workers, who have battled to sustain the city in some of its darkest days. What can New York do now for our essential workers? How can we recognize the work they have done for the city and offer them quality of life, health, and financial stability in return?

We should prioritize essential workers in the allocation of affordable housing

The pandemic has starkly revealed how much New York depends on its essential workers. As lockdowns were announced and millions of New Yorkers retreated into their homes, essential workers continued to provide healthcare, food, transportation, essential infrastructure, manufacturing, and services. Any semblance of normalcy experienced by other New Yorkers was thanks to the home health aide and the mail carrier, the grocery store clerk and the food delivery worker, the firefighter and the MTA station agent. Essential workers put themselves and their families at risk to continue to fulfill their work responsibilities. The only way we can begin to recover from the devastating crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic is if we truly recognize what this crisis has revealed, and build policies that respond.

Because of the incredible crisis management that essential workers have performed in 2020, the City and State should explore all possible avenues to enable New York City’s essential workers to access an affordable, high-quality apartment in the neighborhood of their choice.

Priorities for a scarce city resource like affordable housing should reflect who we value in society; especially at a time when we have had a reckoning about who we have been undervaluing for too long.

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