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April 8, 2016

Senator Bernie Sanders
Bernie 2016
131 Church Street
Suite 300
Burlington, VT 05401
Dear Senator Sanders,
We write to ask – as part of your campaign in New York’s Presidential primary – that
you tour a New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) public housing development,
meet with public housing residents, and speak specifically to the issues of affordable
housing facing low-income New Yorkers and Americans (including not only public
housing but also Housing Choice Vouchers, National Housing Trust Fund, etc.). These
are critical issues for tens of millions of Americans, but we have not heard enough about
them in the Presidential campaign thus far. We are therefore extending this request to
each of the Presidential campaigns, and asking that you work with us on a tour and
address before New York’s primary on April 19th.
We know that you are aware of the affordable housing crisis facing millions of
Americans. Matthew Desmond’s best-seller, Evicted, is drawing powerful attention to the
misery facing low-income renters across the country, including decrepit and unhealthy
homes, spending more than they can afford, and constant fear or reality of eviction and
homelessness. Gentrification is adding to the challenges facing metropolitan regions like
New York City, but the crisis spreads all across the country.
We estimate that there is a gap of 7.2 million affordable and available rental units for the
nation’s 10.4 million lowest-income households – three quarters of whom spend more
than half of their income on rent and utilities. Unfortunately, federal support has been
withdrawn for public housing, vouchers, and senior housing, exacerbating the housing
crisis overall, and especially for those with the lowest incomes. Meanwhile, we continue
to spend nearly $75 billion (more than double the entire HUD budget) on the Mortgage
Interest Deduction, which goes disproportionately to the wealthiest Americans.

We ask specifically that you tour New York’s most critical – but also most endangered –
federal safety net: the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). The largest provider
of affordable housing in the United States, NYCHA manages 178,000 units of public
housing and distributes 88,000 Section 8 vouchers, housing a population of well over
700,000 New Yorkers. NYC housing advocates estimate that the real number of
individuals that NYCHA houses is 800,000, when accounting for those who have not
received NYCHA's formal authorization to reside in an apartment. Without NYCHA,
our city would become America’s gilded metropolis, unaffordable to its poorest residents.
Like the country at large, New York City has its own tale of two cities. There’s the gilded
city, which is the venue of choice for political fundraisers and galas, and then there’s the
other city, where the urban poor live in palpable fear of displacement from their homes
and neighborhoods.
With a population the size of Boston, NYCHA is the core of that other city. But it has
since suffered an unconscionable withdrawal of support by the federal government. As a
result, NYCHA is weathering a perfect storm of aging infrastructure and federal
disinvestment. NYCHA faces a $17 billion dollar capital need, which has made mold and
leaks, broken boilers and elevators, leaking roofs and bricks a perpetual fact of life in
public housing. As a result, in a growing number of neighborhoods, we see luxury towers
side-by-side with crumbling structures of low-income housing. Is that the polarized
image of America that we wish to project to the world? Is that the message we wish to
send about how we, as a nation, treat the urban poor? If black and brown lives matter in
the United States, how do we address the decades-long deterioration of NYCHA?
A tour of a NYCHA development would be the perfect venue for you to talk about your
plans to address the housing crisis facing our country – not only your plans to preserve
and improve public housing, but also Housing Choice Vouchers, the National Housing
Trust Fund, Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, supporting municipalities like New York
City who are taking bold and innovative steps involving land use and local subsidies, and
other efforts you might propose.
As a coalition of advocates, community-based organizations, and elected officials intent
on raising the visibility of families at the lowest incomes, we are making this request of
all of the Presidential candidates. We would like to work with you to plan and implement
the tour. This request is not part of an endorsement process – most of the signatories to
this letter are 501c3 organizations, who will not endorse a candidate. We would like to
bring attention to these critical issues, and help your campaign have the best opportunity
to talk about what you will do as President to address them.
We are urging you to perform the same public service that Jacob Riis did more than a
century ago, and Robert Kennedy did on his Presidential campaign: highlight how the
other half lives. Show the American people how our nation treats its poorest citizens in its
largest and wealthiest city. Give the other half hope that, after decades of abandonment
by the federal government, they will truly be seen and heard by the next President of the
United States.

If you are interested in working with us, please contact: Rachel Goodman, Chief of Staff
in Council Member Brad Lander’s office, (718) 499-1090, or
Thank you for your leadership, your service to our country, and for your serious
consideration of our request.

New York City Council Member Ritchie Torres
Deputy Leader; Chair, Committee on Public Housing
New York City Council Member Jumaane D. Williams
Deputy Leader; Chair, Committee on Housing and Buildings
New York City Council Member Brad Lander
Deputy Leader for Policy; Chair, Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections
National Low Income Housing Coalition
Community Service Society
Community Voices Heard (CVH) Power
Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE)
Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES)
The Legal Aid Society