Peter Ward on why HTC co-signed mayor's housing plan

Peter Ward on why HTC co-signed mayor's housing plan

Peter Ward on why HTC co-signed mayor's housing plan
December 17, 2015

When the de Blasio administration announced this month that the Hotel Trades Council was one of three major private-sector unions to endorse the mayor’s affordable housing plan – SEIU Locals 32BJ and 1199 being the others – it begged the question: Why would a union that has no obvious stake in housing or construction co-sign this plan?

To hear HTC President Peter Ward explain it, his union had practical and philosophical reasons to lend its support. Ward told City & State that soaring real estate prices have increasingly pushed his membership to the margins of the five boroughs, increasing commutes as well as health care costs for members who can’t afford to live near the health centers HTC provides. From a philosophical standpoint, Ward says that more affordable housing makes for a healthier New York City economy, and that the mayor’s plan would be a step toward solving what he deemed a “housing crisis.”

Ward added that HTC will now be part of a robust engagement effort on behalf of the administration, engaging members, community boards and elected officials to sway them in favor of two controversial zoning text amendments that are central to the housing plan. The first, mandatory inclusionary housing, would require developers to set aside 25 to 30 percent of their apartments on newly rezoned lots for low- to middle-income housing. The second, zoning for quality and affordability, would enable a series of changes to the city’s complicated zoning text to enable more development, such as allowing larger assisted living facilities than are currently permitted.

Both proposals have encountered widespread opposition from community boards and borough presidents, but Ward is confident that further education and conversation about the benefits of each proposal will change people’s minds.

Nick Powell