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Excerpted From: Daniel Finnegan, Looking for a Silver Lining: How the Covid-19 Pandemic Forces New York to Reckon with its Affordable Housing Crisis, 15 Brooklyn Journal of Corporate, Financial & Commercial Law 467 (Spring, 2021) (Note) (249 Footnotes) (Full Document)

DanielFinnegan"Fair housing for all--all human beings who live in this country--is now part of the American way of life."

New York State has long been at the center of the conversation around the failures of the United States' housing system. In particular, New York City has a long, storied history of enacting some of the largest and most progressive housing measures in the nation. These measures, while significant in their scale and their ideology, have inadequately met the city's housing demand, and in some instances actually perpetuated New York State's history of segregation. That history of economic and racial segregation dates back to the post-war suburban construction boom, and the racially-restrictive covenants included in these newly-developed suburbs. Recently, judiciaries and legislatures at the state and local level have attempted to address housing discrimination within their jurisdictions. However, these measures have largely been performative and fail to adequately address the problem.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has only further exacerbated these inequalities. While recent federal and state legislation provides low and middle-class residents with the tools to cope with certain short-term impacts of COVID-19, the various economic effects of the pandemic are nevertheless propelling hundreds of thousands of low-income New Yorkers into debt and housing insecurity. Additionally, further compounding the issue are the thousands of wealthy New Yorkers who fled the city and created a suburban housing boom in the "outer-boroughs" of New York. This inflated the real estate market, and further segregated New York City's suburbs.

Despite millions of New Yorkers feeling the pandemic's impact, it also provides the state with a unique opportunity to remedy long-standing inequities in the housing market. As federal funding for existing affordable housing programs continues to dwindle each year, the New York State legislature should look to other jurisdictions for the creative solutions needed to craft a proactive remedy for the state's housing needs. Just as the Great Depression caused lawmakers to expand the government's role in the provision and financing of housing, the combined influence of the Black Lives Matter movement and the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has forced lawmakers to reconsider the government's role in providing for the housing needs of low-income Americans.

In Part I, this Note will examine the history of the housing crisis in the United States, and how actions taken by federal, state, and local governments have worked to create our current, flawed system. Part II examines the economic effects of COVID-19, the government's response, and the suburban housing boom that consequently occurred. Next, Part III details specific remedies that other states and municipalities instituted to mitigate the housing crisis and the positive steps that New York has taken. Lastly, Part IV will propose certain measures the New York legislature must take to adequately combat both the effects of COVID-19 and the long-standing inequities present in the current housing system.

[. . .]

COVID-19 and the government-imposed shutdown have caused significant disruption and economic uncertainty for the real estate industry. The most effective way to combat these disruptions will be a broad-scale, multi-faceted plan at the federal, state, and local levels. While there have been attempts to protect the interests of the real estate industry, the government can and must do better. The government must provide financial and regulatory help to combat the current housing crisis and work to remedy broad-scale inequities in housing.

B.A. Fordham University, 2015; J.D. Candidate, Brooklyn Law School, 2022.

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