Bill de Blasio, who scored a spectacular landslide victory this week to become the next Mayor of New York, could be an inspiration for Labour, for Ed Miliband and for whoever becomes the London mayoral candidate for 2016. His campaign slogan was “One New York, Rising Together” and he focused on tackling the cost of living crisis, tackling inequality, and increasing taxes on the very wealthy to fund new programmes.
“Make no mistake: The people of this city have chosen a progressive path, and tonight we set forth on it, together.” Bill de Blasio
Standing on a radical affordable housing platform, de Blasio emphasised the dangers of growing inequality and the stark contrast between the wealthy and ordinary New Yorkers who can barely pay the rent. He also focused on homelessness and the growing numbers living in shelters. He tapped effectively into the growing frustration of the city’s residents that NY was becoming a rich person’s city.
- One-third of New Yorkers spend at least half of their income on housing.
- 50,000 New Yorkers, including 21,000 children, live in homeless shelters and many more are turned away.
De Blasio has a track record on housing. He was a regional director of the Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Clinton administration. In various elected and administrative roles, he has taken on negligent landlords (including through the ‘Worst Landlords Watch List’) and campaigned on housing standards, including the right to energy supplies.
De Blasio’s policy commitments centre on providing or preserving affordable housing, arguing that the process of development is reinforcing class segregation rather than weakening it. He argues that the process of ‘rezoning’ should require homes to be built for middle and low income families and not just the wealthy. He plans to direct $1 billion of city pension funds to affordable housing construction. He will raise taxes on developers who keep land vacant waiting for prices to rise, set up a non-profit land bank, and conduct an annual census of vacant buildings. He will campaign to restore rent stabilization and rent increase exemptions and set up new services to help tenants fight evictions. He has promised to tackle the backlog of health and safety repairs to New York’s public housing. He will help small landlords repair their properties and strengthen the homeless safety net with stronger guarantees of access to shelters.
De Blasio intends to lead the US cities in a campaign for a new national urban agenda, including more public housing, low income tax credits and other affordability policies.
The parallels with Ed Miliband’s ‘One Nation’ policies is striking. Like New Yorkers, people in Britain are beginning to realise that letting rich people do what they like and make as much money as they like will never lead to prosperity trickling down to middle and low income people.
The Bill de Blasio campaign website housing section is here.
And his Mayoral transition website is here.
And the New York Times report of his election can be found here.