A strong housing movement needs strong politicians as allies.

... Consider New York, where at least two high-profile candidates this year have made housing a central plank of their political platforms, while spurning campaign cash from landlords, developers, and the like. It is likely no coincidence that both of them are also running insurgent primary challenges against centrist Democratic incumbents.  ...

Supporters at left of a tax on large companies face off against opponents of the tax at City Hall in Seattle, June 12, 2018.
Supporters at left of a tax on large companies face off against opponents of the tax at City Hall in Seattle, June 12, 2018. © Supporters at left of a tax on large companies face off against opponents of the tax at City Hall in Seattle, June 12, 2018. (AP Photo / Ted S. Warren)

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One is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the insurgent primary challenger facing off against establishment Democrat Joe Crowley in New York’s 14th district. While running on a platform that includes Medicare for All and the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Ocasio-Cortez has also maintained a consistent focus on “housing as a human right.” Among other things, she has refused corporate campaign contributions, including money from the real-estate industry. She has talked relentlessly about the problems of rising rents, spreading gentrification, and homelessness in New York. She has promised to take on the political power of luxury developers. And she has announced her support for Keith Ellison’s Common Sense Housing Investment Act. Yet Ocasio-Cortez has been spurned by national Democrats, most of whom are either staying out of the race or have endorsed her developer-backed opponent.

The other notable candidate is Cynthia Nixon, who is challenging New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary. Like Ocasio-Cortez, Nixon is saying no to corporate campaign contributions. Like Ocasio-Cortez, she has slammed her opponent for his ties to the real-estate industry. And she, too, has rolled out an ambitious and uncompromising housing-justice platform.

“Cynthia’s housing platform was developed in conversation with community organizers, policy experts, and tenants who have been working on these issues for many years,” said campaign spokesperson Lauren Hitt in a statement, in which she described the plan as the country’s most “expansive” tenant protection program. “It will provide affordable homes to more than 3 million households, help to curb our state’s homelessness crisis, and prevent thousands of evictions.”

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