Opinion: Albany Can Solve The Housing Crisis, Says Ridgewood’s Claire Valdez

Over the last few years, Ridgewood has suffered one of the steepest drops in affordable housing in all of New York City. Between 2019 and 2021, nearly two-thirds — 65 percent — of the neighborhood’s rent-stabilized apartment stock vanished, according to an analysis from The City. In the state assembly’s District 37, which I’m running to represent and which includes Ridgewood, Maspeth, Sunnyside, Long Island City, and Woodside, one in three residents are rent-burdened, paying more than 30 percent of their income on rent. 

Looking across the city is no less grim: New York City in 2023 saw rent hikes outrun wage gains by the largest margins of any U.S. metropolitan area in a national survey. Every single neighborhood is feeling squeezed. 

It doesn’t matter whether I’m knocking doors in Ridgewood, Maspeth or Sunnyside – people want to talk about housing. They tell me they’re afraid they’ll be priced out of their homes, or they’re putting off having children in neighborhoods they know and love because sizing up to a two-bedroom apartment is impossibly expensive. 

Ridgewood is my home. It’s where I’ve set down my roots and, so far, I’ve been fortunate not to be pushed out by a landlord searching for the highest bidder. But I’m fighting for a Queens where luck doesn’t determine whether you have a decent, affordable place to live.

The current housing crisis is a policy choice. We have solutions, but they’re actively opposed by legislators in Albany who are funded by billionaire real estate interests and lobbyists, or by legislators who are landlords themselves. Or both. They leverage our homes for speculation and profit, treating housing like a casino and not as a human right. The result is a developer and large-property owner class profiting off skyrocketing rents while working families suffer precarity and historic levels of homelessness.

We cannot wait any longer on politicians who are slow-walking important bills to protect their donors, or only propose incremental changes like tax abatements or piecemeal zoning adjustments as “solutions.” To tackle New York’s housing crisis, we need leaders to push bold legislation that will put power back into tenants’ hands and develop the kind of housing people really need long term. 

If elected, I will support legislation like the Green Social Housing bill introduced by Assemblymember Emily Gallagher, which would create a Social Housing Development Authority to build, acquire, rehabilitate, and finance high-quality, permanently affordable housing that is insulated from market forces and democratically managed by the people who live in it. I will also support the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, which would give tenants the right to make the first offer if a building’s landlord decides to sell it.

Passing legislation like that only happens with leaders who will not bow to special interests and don’t rely on real estate to fix a problem that real estate created.

Another thing I hear when I’m doorknocking is that people feel alienated from the political process because they can’t imagine competing with corporate interests that spend huge sums – even in local races like ours – to buy politicians outright. In my candidacy, I haven’t taken a dime of corporate, Wall Street, real estate, or Republican–backed PAC money. From the beginning, our campaign has been funded by small, grassroots donations from working people because in Albany, that’s who I’ll be fighting for. That’s how we win the transformative change we need to tackle the multiple crises, from housing to climate, that we face at the scale they demand.

Queens is a borough that connects people across language, culture, and national origin, and so my vision for the district is one where we invest in the things that bring us together: quality education and universal childcare, green social housing, free and reliable public transit, and good paying union jobs. 

Dignity, meaning, and beauty should be daily experiences for all of us, not just the incredibly wealthy. The future I’m fighting for is one where everyone in Queens has what they need to live a healthy, fulfilling life. Together, we can build neighborhoods where working people have the best of everything, and where the collective power of our community, not the power of real estate developers or hedge fund billionaires, determines our future.

Claire Valdez is running for the Democratic Party nomination to represent New York State’s 37th District, currently held by Juan Ardila and which includes the neighborhoods of Ridgewood, Maspeth, Sunnyside, Long Island City, and Woodside. The primary takes place June 25th. Find a voting location near you here.

Bushwick Daily is committed to publishing a diversity of local voices. Do you have something you’d like to say? Email [email protected].

Images provided by the Valdez campaign.

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