Housing Policy

Legislator Who Argues Housing Is a Human Right Also Suing to Stop Affordable Housing in Her District

New York Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou is a plaintiff in a lawsuit to stop a Habitat for Humanity housing project.


Politicians who declare housing a human right rarely include in that a right to actually build housing.

Take New York Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou (D–Lower Manhattan) who just co-wrote an op-ed arguing that every New Yorker should be guaranteed a home—while also suing to stop the construction of an affordable housing complex in her district.

In a Wednesday piece for the New York Daily News, Niou and activist Feliz Guzman argue that the Saturday murder of four homeless people in New York City could have been prevented by more government spending on housing and social services.

"If they had been housed, four of our neighbors would very likely still be with us today," they write. "We must choose to guarantee every New Yorker the right to a safe and affordable home to prevent a tragedy like this one from ever happening again." Niou and Guzman call out both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio for falling short of their own promises to build affordable housing:

In 2016 [Cuomo] promised New York State 20,000 units of supportive housing, but little funding has been released to build the needed units, and only 1,426 units are open. Meanwhile, Mayor de Blasio's commitment of 15,000 units of supportive housing is behind schedule and he has not set aside enough housing units for homeless people in his Housing New York 2.0 plan.

Awkwardly, Niou is also a plaintiff in a lawsuit against an affordable housing project being built by a coalition of developers, including Habitat for Humanity, in Little Italy. The project, named Haven Green, would add 123 units of affordable senior housing to Niou's district, including 37 units for the formerly homeless.

This sounds like the kind of project Niou not only thinks the city needs more of, but also sees as a right—even one that, per her Daily News op-ed, could prevent future homicides.

So why is she suing to stop it? It's all about the open space.

The Haven Green project will replace the privately managed Elizabeth Street Garden that currently occupies the city-owned site. In March, the garden, and a separate non-profit that advocates for its preservation, filed a lawsuit against the city, arguing that it erred in approving the project without conducting an adequate environmental study.

"While Lower Manhattan is desperately in need of affordable housing, we
cannot pit the need for housing against the need for green space, especially
when so many good alternatives are available," Niou said in a statement.

Now, one can reasonably argue that open space is a precious commodity in a city, one that needs to be balanced against the need for shelter. But it's hard to argue that while also asserting that housing is also a right that needs to be guaranteed by the government.

Niou is hardly the first politician to find herself in such a tangle.

Seattle's lone socialist city councilmember, Kshama Sawant, has declared housing a human right—and has also led a crusade to stop a music venue being redeveloped into condominiums. One of the fiercest opponents of efforts to liberalize housing development in California is an advocacy group literally called Housing Is A Human Right. And while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) has declared that housing "must be a right," Mother Jones has documented the presidential candidate's history of demonizing developers and endorsing NIMBY candidates in local races.

If legislators and activists want to claim a right to housing, they need to take the right to create housing more seriously. You can't be guaranteed the right to a home that hasn't been built yet.

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  1. One assumes she’ll be reelected.

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  2. These people are perfectly consistent. To them, Housing is a human right to be provided by the Government. THE. GOVERNMENT. Not, greedy developers. C.f. the affordable housing being built by the california government that costs more to produce than similarly sized condos on the private market.

    1. ^ This.

      If the government builds something, it doesn’t profit. If you remove the profit margin from a construction project, it’s cheaper and more affordable. Therefore when the government builds something, it’s cheaper and more affordable.

      Reverend Kirkland keeps trying to explain elite logic like this to the clingers, but they just never understand.

      1. Except for the fact that government construction is almost always far more expensive than private work. This is probably because all the incentives to make it better and cheaper are stripped away. No competition means that they don’t care about bad customer service (see your telecommunications company, which you probably hate, but due to the oligopoly, you are stuck with the least-worst you can find). No investors or personal ownership means no one to punish them for going over budget. After all, the government’s multi-trillion dollar budget is effectively limitless for lax work or cost overruns.

        I wonder why you can’t see that. It’s not like “government contract” isn’t synonymous with “guaranteed payday”

      2. If you really think the government can build something for less than the private sector, because “it doesn’t profit”, you aren’t using your brain enough. Every person working to build something, is paid for their time, and government pay is higher than in the private sector. In the private sector, the guy putting up the capital may not get paid and might actually lose money, not so with government employees (tax payers take the risks). Instead of private developers putting up money, we have government doing that at taxpayer expense

        The only way the government can build something at lower costs than the private sector, is when the use of force against people is involved, and that isn’t desirable, except when someone first harmed someone else, because ALL government actions are evil in the sense, money was taken from producers harming them to pay for government.

      3. Yeh. It makes sense if a) you’re on acid keeping you firmly seeing marmalade skies and b) a complete failure in life and basic economics.

        Arthurs is just a bigoted moron.

      4. A constant refrain is that government can do it cheaper because there is no profit. Life experience tells us that housing built by government is ALWAYS more expensive. Always? Show me one single housing project managed and built by government that was less expensive than capitalism. Please, Just give me some examples that show what you claim.

        1. Examples in building construction have become plentiful in The DOE lab system. A building constructed by the government consistent with all government oversight procedures overseeing projects, progress reviews, and departmental policy constraints costs 50% to 100% more than the same building built by third party financing. Such examples are well known by senior government executives.

  3. It’s all about the open space.

    Bullshit. It’s all about raw political power.

    (And, oh by the way, too many of those old folks secretly vote for republicans.)

  4. Just like warmists who cry the world will reach a climate tipping point in 12 years, yet are even more alarmist over nuclear power instead of windmills and solar panels.

    Hypocrites the lot.

  5. “While Lower Manhattan is desperately in need of affordable housing, we cannot pit the need for housing against the need for green space, especially when so many good alternatives are available,” Niou said in a statement.

    Upstate New York is a good alternative, there’s lots of green space there.

    Oh, you meant alternatives for housing! Why limit yourself to only looking at one side of the equation? Think outside the box! Maybe you could put together a program to send city folks to the countryside, I’ve heard there’s a farm up there where all good dogs go where there’s nothing but grassy fields and rabbits to chase all day long. Load a bunch of New York City liberals like yourself up in cattle cars and ship ’em all there, that’s a pogrom I could get behind. Program, I meant, program. Not pogrom, program. That sure was a potentially embarrassing typo!

    1. I think she means alternatives like “housing multiple families in a single unit”. Tres socialist.

      1. Just not in decent neighborhoods. You know , segregated areas for po’ folk. Not on MY block.

  6. This isn’t the only situation where Democrats think you have a right to a thing while at the same time advocating for tons of restrictions on providing that thing.

    It’s pretty obvious these types of politicians have a baseline misunderstanding of what a ‘right’ is. They also appear to have no knowledge of cause and effect.

    1. you have a right to a thing while at the same time advocating for tons of restrictions on providing that thing.

      I don’t care how I want it now!

  7. murder of four homeless people in New York City could have been prevented by more government spending on housing and social services

    It’s not the murder that’s a problem, it’s the homelessness.

    1. Is it bad that I first read that as “murder of four homeless people in New York City could have prevented more government spending on housing and social services?”

    2. Handing out more metal pipes would lower the homeless numbers too.

      1. You should suggest that for a solution to the homeless problems they’re facing on the West Coast. You might think those soy-based life forms inhabiting the estates of power in LA, SF, Portland, Seattle, etc. would recoil from the brutality of such a solution.

        But if you send the suggestion with a bundle of federal money, a new department to hand out grants to activist groups who would then contract (with union-owned firms, if possible) vendors to provide metal pipes. Hand them out to interning college students (children and paramours of the elite classes) and tell them the homeless are all racist, misogynistic, transphobic, anti-muslim Trump supporters.

        Then it’s all over but the screaming, bleeding, sirens, body bags and the well-paying work of pretending to keep track of their efforts. Which latter must be done by a government agency to ensure that the noble goal of the new department is achieved: a bigger budget next year.

        1. Sounds about right

  8. New York Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou (D–Lower Manhattan is just a fucking hypocrite.

    1. Personally I get the idea shes one of those liberals who foolishly thinks we can have everything, especially with the government paying for it, and doesn’t even see her hypocrisy.

  9. too stupid to mock.

  10. Politicians can really be mendacious cunts.

  11. Seattle’s lone socialist city councilmember, Kshama Sawant

    1. She’s a communist.
    2. Let’s be real. She’s the only declared socialist councilmember.

  12. “Legislator Who Argues Housing Is a Human Right Also Suing to Stop Affordable Housing in Her District”

    That’s the issue.

    You assume she thinks the poor are human.

  13. That should be a fun deposition. As one of the plaintiffs, the defense counsel will be entirely within their rights to rake her over the coals for her hypocrisy and then to make that all a matter of public record.

    Even for a politician, that’s exceptionally stupid behavior.

    1. She’s lucky New York City doesn’t have any powerful, well-funded journalistic organizations to ferret out and publicize her double standards and hypocrisy.

  14. Cla-ssic. With strong emphasis on the sicc.

  15. Fairly typical Progressive politician.

  16. Housing for all… it’s not just a right. It’s a slogan!

  17. Come on in all fairness you can be for affordable housing and for green space and on occasion these two ideas might come in conflict. WIKIPEDIA “Elizabeth Street Garden is a 1-acre community sculpture garden in the Nolita neighborhood of Manhattan”. So a small garden that is a quality of life thing or more concrete in a place that is already covered in it. CLICK BAIT, nothing to see here.

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  19. Thanks for the article, Maybe you want to know

  20. Note that none of them are conducting an inventory of housing in the city, and requiring the privileged (looking at you, Mia Farrow, and Woody Allen) who are ‘hogging’ too much housing to give some of it up to house those who are struggling.

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