Housing is a Human Right

Housing is a basic human need that should be guaranteed  to everyone, as well as produced, provided, maintained, and controlled democratically. Under capitalism, however, housing is treated as a commodity that creates profit for landlords, banks, and real estate. As a result, working-class tenants, who are disproportionately people of color, are often forced to live in unhealthy, squalid conditions and/or spend a significant portion of their income on rent. Meanwhile, the state and municipal government protect the interest of private property while undermining democracy by neglecting calls for equitable housing policies supported by tenants. 

We recognize the United States was created with land European colonizers stole from indigenous people. The privatization of this land has since enabled a few to accumulate wealth at the expense of the rest. In our work, we strive to correct the longstanding history and ongoing problems of racism, displacement, and inequality inherent in the land use, homeownership, and rentership under capitalism. Most urgently, we must provide immediate relief to the more than 89,000 people living in homeless shelters and the countless individuals living on the streets in New York State. 

Housing is also an environmental justice issue. (See the Ecosocialism policy plank section on a Green New Deal for Housing.) The rapidly worsening global climate crisis is already causing mass displacement, with the greatest impact on poor communities of color. Our fight for housing rights, our fight for ecosocialism, and our fight for racial justice are interconnected. We must build a society where housing is no longer a commodity and everybody lives in quality, sustainable housing, without fear of eviction or displacement.

To this end, our immediate goals are to strengthen and expand rent control, as well as forms of social housing, including public housing, alternative community ownership models, and low-income co-ops. We must also work toward housing models that produce new decommodified (and decarbonized) homes, in which residents exercise self-determination and democratic control over their management.

The struggle for decommodified housing begins with the struggle for renters’ rights. While capping rent increases is itself a radical intervention in the housing market, we know it is just the first step toward securing housing as a human right.  We must continue to build working-class and tenant power by focusing on tenant organizing and engaging in direct struggle against landlords, the real estate industry, as well as the politicians and public institutions that support them. New York state has a radical tenant history that fought for the creation of union built coops and the first rent regulation laws; as socialists we shall continue this fight for a New York where everyone has a home. 

Stop Evictions, Rent Hikes, and Expand Tenants’ Rights 

  • Pass Universal Rent Control. The New York State legislature must strengthen and expand rent stabilization to cover all apartments, regardless of building size, age, or location. This would mean that every tenant has: 

    • The right to a renewal lease and the ability to pass their apartment onto their family.

    • The right to limited rent increases set by a publicly accountable board, not the landlord. Existing loopholes in rent stabilization that allow landlords to pass the cost of repairs onto tenants and encourage tenant harassment must also be closed.

    • The right to organize a tenant association or tenant union in their building.

  • Guarantee a right to counsel: a step towards further tenant-power over homes.  All tenants should have access to a free attorney in housing court when facing an eviction.

  • Stop landlord harassment. Establish strong tenant unions and make it easier for tenants to hold landlords accountable for harassment. 

  • Eliminate source of income discrimination. No tenant should be refused an apartment based on how they pay their rent.

  • Stop Airbnb and other home-sharing companies from removing rental housing from the market to use as short-term hotels.

Fully Fund Public Housing

  • Reinvest in public housing — the only true affordable and decommodified housing in New York State — and commit to the $32 billion needed in meeting New York Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) outstanding repairs following decades of federal disinvestment.

  • Oppose all attempts from the city government to privatize New York Housing Authority or allow land it owns to be developed for private profit by developers.

Support Non-Market-Based Ownership Models

  • Demand the implementation of  programs like the Third Party Transfer Program and the 7A program that seize properties from negligent landlords and convert them to low-income, community-controlled housing.

  • Encourage the city to take eminent domain actions to create more affordable and de-commodified housing.

  • Invest more city and state resources in low-income, alternative housing models like community land trusts, limited equity cooperatives, and mutual housing associations.

End Homelessness and Give Everyone a Safe, Stable Home 

  • Demand that immediate actions be taken to rehouse the 89,000 New Yorkers who are homeless.

  • Invest in housing support programs that allow low-income households to afford their rent.

Use Public Resources for Public Good

  • The City must stop rezonings that simply encourage gentrification and unlock development value for private landlords.

  • Public land must be used for public good: the city and state must not sell off any public land for market-rate or privately owned housing, and instead invest resources in public land uses, like public parks, public schools, or public housing.

  • Explore a public bank to finance truly affordable, people-controlled housing models.