Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants to put rent regulation, mortgage fraud in the national spotlight

The congresswoman said she plans to introduce legislation restricting rent increases greater than three percent

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Holds Public Housing Town Hall In The Bronx (Credit: Getty Images)
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Holds Public Housing Town Hall In The Bronx (Credit: Getty Images)

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez plans to introduce several of the housing-policy ideas floating around New York state at the federal level, the lawmaker said during a town hall in the Bronx on Thursday.

The progressive congresswoman touted her plan to introduce “Just Cause” and Access to Counsel at a federal level. Those policies would mirror New York State Senator Julia Salazar’s failed “Good Cause” eviction bill and the Right to Counsel rule already in place in many zip codes in New York City. The lawmaker also said she plans to introduce laws that would place restrictions on rent increases larger than three percent and prosecute mortgage fraud.

“We are asking the nation’s largest landlords to provide data,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “If you act like a slumlord you should not be able to get money to do it again and again.”

Likening it to a “set of dominoes,” Ocasio-Cortez said housing policy is difficult to legislate because of the complex interplay between city, state and federal policy.

Ocasio-Cortez organized the meeting to discuss the city’s beleaguered public housing agency.

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At least $32 billion is needed to repair NYCHA developments in New York City. Last November, the de Blasio administration said that his administration would transfer 62,000 units to the Section 8 federal housing subsidy program. A separate proposal would allow NYCHA to sell air rights for mixed-use development to subsidize public units.

And although the freshman lawmaker spoke extensively about the history of NYCHA, the funding problems and lack of transparency that have led to its current crisis, none of the policies she outlined were specifically related to NYCHA.

Calling a lack of funding “federal sabotage,” Ocasio-Cortez said that Republican control of Congress has been responsible for budget shortfalls at the housing authority — $2.7 billion each year — and that she plans to work to increase funding through appropriations and a redistributive taxing model. During her presentation, Ocasio-Cortez said the United States should look to other models of public housing— Denmark, for example.

The ebullient progressive lawmaker later took questions from the community, responding to concerns over broken elevators and reports of discrimination against “mixed-status” NYCHA residents. A TRD investigation earlier this year found that elevator mechanics are given little training and NYCHA elevators have outages five times more than non-NYCHA buildings.

Following multiple questions about problems with NYCHA elevators, the congresswoman said her staff is looking into opening a congressional inquiry based on violations of the American Disabilities Act.

“It’s an enormous problem. I think that if elevators are broken for an extended time, it’s an ADA violation,” the congresswoman said.