By Phineas Rueckert
Discussions surrounding the affordable housing crisis in Queens often centers around its western neighborhoods: Long Island City, Astoria, etc. But this weekend, affordable housing advocates in Flushing are raising their hands to say that they, too, want universal rent control now.
The “Moral Rally for Housing,” hosted by seven community organizations and faith groups, will take place on Friday at 7:00 p.m. at the St. George’s Church at 135-32 38th Ave. Advocates are calling for the State Senate to pass the slate of nine laws that housing justice activists say will protect low-income tenants and immigrant communities.
“The housing issue has become a vital issue to our communities and people in Flushing,” Sunae Byeon, a housing organizer with MinKwon Center for Community Action, told the Eagle. “Because rent laws are expiring on June 15, we want to make a final stretch to let our voices be heard.”
Among the bills that are being considered a bill that would prohibit evictions 'without good cause'; a bill that would make preferential rents permanent until vacancy; and a rent control and rent stabilization parity bill. Lawmakers have until the end of next week to pass the bills.
Affordable housing in Flushing is a key local issue. A 2016 study by the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development found that 58 percent of Flushing tenants were rent-burdened, meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their monthly income on rent. In New York at large, more than 50 percent of tenants are rent-burdened, including more than 75 percent of low-income people.
City Councilmember Peter Koo told Patch in February that providing affordable housing “is the most often-asked question in our office."
Still, activists say, more awareness is needed.
“A lot of the residents in east Queens they are immigrants and many times they don’t have English proficiency and also many times they are not aware of their housing rights,” Byeon said. “I think that our communities should be organized to fight back against these issues.”
St. George’s Church played a role in pushing back against a proposed Flushing rezoning plan in 2016. State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky and Assemblymember Ron Kim are expected to speak at the event.