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NYC mayoral candidates criticised as out of touch for wildly lowballing price of a house in Brooklyn

·4-min read
<p>Shaun Donovan’s estimation about the median house price in Brooklyn was nine times lower than reality</p> (Getty Images)

Shaun Donovan’s estimation about the median house price in Brooklyn was nine times lower than reality

(Getty Images)

Two candidates vying to become the Democratic nominee for mayor of New York City have come under fire for their “oblivious” views on the price of a home in the city, despite one of them once heading up the US department of housing.

Monica Klein, the founder of Seneca Strategies, a New York City political communications firm, shared excerpts from interviews with Shaun Donovan and Ray McGuire with the editorial board of The New York Times that took place ahead of the paper’s endorsement in the mayoral contest.

Ms Klein tweeted on Tuesday, “@RayForMayor & @ShaunDonovanNYC both think a home in Brooklyn costs $100K... How can you fix the city’s housing crisis if you’re this oblivious?” alongside the question in the paper.

Mara Gray, a member of the Times’ editorial board asked in the interview, “Do you happen to know what the median sales price for a home is in Brooklyn?”

Mr Donovan’s answer, “In Brooklyn, huh? I don’t know for sure. I would guess it is around $100,000.”

Ms Gray informed him that it was $900,000, nine times more than he believed it was. According to the article, Mr Donovan later messaged the paper to say he meant “the assessed value”.

Mr McGuire, a businessman who has worked for companies including Morgan Stanley and Citigroup, guessed $80,000 to $90,000.

Ms Klein’s tweet has amassed a whopping 4,500 retweets, 2,900 quote tweets and 19,000 likes, with lots of people aghast as Mr Donovan has an extensive background in housing policy as he was housing secretary and budget director for president Barack Obama. Before that, he worked as then-New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s housing commissioner from 2004 to 2009.

Ben Adler, senior editor of City and State NY, called the low-ball estimations “appalling.”

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Other journalists, such as NY1 anchor Pat Kiernan, called out the candidates for being woefully out of touch on the price of a home in New York.

He asked on Twitter, “How do you start an affordable housing discussion with candidates who think you can buy a home in Brooklyn for $100,000?”

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Others were flabbergasted that Mr Donovan would get the question so wrong given his previous government experience.

“This is insane. How can a FORMER HUD SECRETARY think the average home in Brooklyn costs $100K??? I don’t think there’s a city within a three-hour drive of NYC where the median home is under $100K,” wrote author Victor Catano.

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New York Post columnist Karol Markowicz also pointed how outdated the notion of a $100,000 house was.

She wrote, “This is very weird. Where in the US are median homes $100k? Is this 1986?”

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The Times conducted a series of interviews with mayoral candidates ahead of the newspaper offering its endorsement for the 22 June primary. The election for mayor is on 2 November. Given the Democratic bent of America’s largest city, the winner of the primary is almost certain to become the city’s next mayor.

New York City was walloped by the coronavirus in the early days of the pandemic, which wiped out many jobs across the city and put many residents in a precarious housing position.

Jonathan Bowles, the executive director of the Center for an Urban Future, told The Guardian that the next mayor, who will take the role on 31 December, needed to act on inequality because “too few New Yorkers got ahead during the boom times of the last decade and lots of those disparities, those racial and ethnic disparities, have been accelerated in this pandemic.”

In response to this criticism, a representative from Mr Donovan’s campaign told The Independent the following; “Shaun misinterpreted the question and made a mistake. He had been volunteering on a complex housing assessment lawsuit and just got the numbers mixed up. As Shaun says, he is a housing nerd and public servant who has dedicated 30 years of his life to solving the problems of housing affordability and homelessness, and the wrong number slipped out. It happens to the best of us.”

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