Another trip to the CHPC archives dusts off the policy paper that Citizens Housing Council (as CHPC was then known) released at the end of Fiorello H. LaGuardia’s tenure as mayor in December 1945. LaGuardia, one of New York’s most revered mayors, is one of four who served three consecutive terms—alongside Robert F. Wagner, Jr. (1954—1965), Edward I. Koch (1978—1989), and current mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (2002—2013). His successor was Tammany Hall Democrat William O’Dwyer, who served as the 100th mayor of New York City.
Titled “A Housing Program for New York City,” the document frames the urgent need for the City to alleviate a shortage of safe, clean, and affordable housing. It lays out eight fundamental principles that guide CHC’s policy recommendations:
• A housing program for New York City must be comprehensive.
• A housing plan should reflect the most economic utilization of existing facilities.
• A housing program should provide for redevelopment of slum areas by private as well as public enterprise.
• Fractional replanning and sporadic rebuilding by public or private enterprise are a costly and inefficient way of dealing with the City’s housing problem.
• The billion and a quarter dollar public works program must be carefully related to future living patterns and neighborhood locations in the City.
• The City must take the initiative in a housing program.
• The coordinated plan that experience has shown to be necessary is required by the fundamental law of the City.
• The problems in the relocation of displaced tenants should be met before the program is undertaken.
A coalescence of knowledge of neighborhoods, housing finance, and municipal governance are clear from these principles. Each of the points above is fleshed out and serves as a necessary component of the specific policy recommendations that follow.
The paper builds on the premises above to make specific proposals with five parallel goals:
• Clear all of the City’s slums within ten years.
• Provide houses for families private enterprise does not serve.
• Alleviate the housing shortage and speed private housing for those private enterprise can serve by making sites available for large-scale development.
• Facilitate preparation of the now shelved Master Plan and provide a key to a comprehensive replanning of the City’s patterns.
• Achieve the fullest, most economical, and most practical utilization of public works and improvements.
Woven through these aims is the proposal to build 250,000 units of publicly-subsidized housing in the following decade, a project that “would automatically supply the opening wedge to an overall replanning of the City.” The authors arrive at this figure by relying on NYCHA estimates of a half-million families living in substandard housing citywide and pending federal and state programs that would supply some units to the authority.
Of note in the proposal is the estimated cost of these quarter-million units: including land, a total of $1.675 billion, or $6,700 per unit (roughly $87,155 per unit in today’s dollars). For the sake of comparison, in the 2012 fiscal year the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development announced that the City invested $1.9 billion on 16,502 units—a cost of roughly $115,138 per unit.
To view the document in its entirety, click here.