Timesunion: There’s a way to fix the housing crisis — if there’s political will

By Nathylin Flowers Adesegun on Timesunion

On any given night in New York, more than 88,000 men, women, and children don’t know where they will sleep.

In New York, the hub of American commerce and prosperity, there is enough wealth generated by the economy to provide housing for all. The problem is an economic structure that ignores the most vulnerable.

Economic inequality — already at a 100-year high — will only accelerate with the passage of the Republican federal tax bill, which gives massive tax breaks to wealthy corporations and individuals.

While Gov. Andrew Cuomo has admonished President Donald Trump’s economic policies, he’s using the federal tax bill — in the name of protecting the budget — as a reason to curtail funding for programs that improve quality of life for economically vulnerable New Yorkers.

This is the truth: We have the wealth, but what we need is the political will on the part of politicians from both major parties to reassign priorities, raise resources and allocate funds to the most vulnerable New Yorkers — and by doing so, lift up the entire state.

Recently, the two of us — one, a former Wall Street office manager who lost her apartment of 34 years and has been homeless since, and the other, a former Wall Street executive who is fighting for more logical tax policies — went to Albany to testify during the state budget hearings and demand that the wealthy pay their fair share.

That starts with closing the carried interest loophole. Carried interest is a tax loophole that allows private equity fund managers — some of the highest earners in the state — to pay taxes on their income at a much lower rate than the standard income tax rate. This means middle-class New Yorkers like teachers, truck drivers and nurses pay higher taxes than they do. Closing it will generate nearly $3.5 billion every year that could be directed toward fixing the housing crisis.

We must also expand the state’s millionaires’ tax. Currently, New York tax brackets are based on income distributions from the 1970s and 1980s, which does not account for the massive growth in the numbers of people receiving millions of dollars a year. Beyond that, we need to restructure the brackets. Someone making $1 million a year and someone making $20 million a year should not pay the same tax rate. New brackets will raise $2.3 billion per year.

In total, the two measures would raise $5.8 billion annually.

Opponents of progressive tax policies argue that they drive the wealthy out of the state. Recent history shows otherwise.

In the wake of the 2008 financial collapse, New York instituted a millionaires’ tax, which was renewed at the same rate last year. While the tax was in place, the number of millionaires in the state of New York rose by 63 percent. Meanwhile, as Cuomo ushered in explosive income gains among the wealthiest New Yorkers, homelessness increased by 41 percent between 2011-2015.

Few times in our history has the gap between the rich and the poor grown more rapidly or been so extreme. New York does not have to continue on this path of self-destruction. By ensuring that everyone pays their fair share, we can ensure that every New Yorker has something as basic as a home and so much more than that.

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