Housing Brass Tacks

Understanding housing policy, finance, and regulation is daunting. One must wade through a sea of acronyms, untangle public and private interests, trace knotty financial flows, and decrypt complex bureaucracies. Making heads or tails of all this can take a lifetime, but the need to understand is urgent. We all feel New York City’s housing squeeze; increased affordable housing is a centerpiece of our mayor’s agenda; and sweeping changes in housing and community development policy may soon come at the federal level. The Architectural League is here to introduce (or refresh) our housing proficiency. Housing Brass Tacks is an informal discussion series designed as a primer on big ideas and essential mechanics in housing policy and development. We’re getting down to brass tacks: the fundamentals that structure this unwieldy topic.


Upcoming Events


Housing Brass Tacks: What Can Architects Do?

February 12, 2018
In our final Brass Tacks discussion, Jared Della Valle, Deborah Gans, and Susanne Schindler will debate the possibilities and limitations of the architectural profession to address access, affordability, and inequity in housing. This event is located at LMHQ at 150 Broadway, New York, NY 10038.


Past Events


Housing Brass Tacks: Community Land Trusts

November 27, 2017
In our 14th Brass Tacks discussion, Mychal Johnson and Monxo López of the Mott Haven-Port Morris Community Land Stewards discussed the structure and benefits of community land trusts, and how they’re working to implement CLTs in New York City.


Housing Brass Tacks: Limited Equity for Lasting Affordability

November 13, 2017
In our 13th Brass Tacks discussion, Andrew Reicher, executive director of the nonprofit Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB), laid out the structure and advantages of limited-equity housing cooperatives as well as UHAB’s work to create long-term housing affordability.


Ins and Outs of Housing Court

October 30, 2017
In our 12th Brass Tacks discussion, Jenny Laurie, executive director of the nonprofit Housing Court Answers, helped us navigate the labyrinthine Housing Court system, shed light on the prevalence and process of eviction cases, and explain what a groundbreaking new right to counsel means for New Yorkers.


The Opaque and Unequal World of Property Taxes

October 16, 2017
In our 11th Brass Tacks discussion, deputy director of New York City’s Independent Budget Office George Sweeting detailed the inefficiencies and inequities in the city’s property tax system and their effects on owners and renters alike.


Home-Sharing or Illegal Hotel?

October 2, 2017
In our tenth Brass Tacks discussion, Patrick Tyrrell of the nonprofit firm Mobilization for Justice will detail the impact of short-term rentals like Airbnb on New York City’s housing market and why a broad advocacy coalition has formed to fight these de facto illegal hotels.


How Development Works

June 5, 2017
In our ninth Brass Tacks event, mission-driven affordable housing developers Michelle de la Uz of Fifth Avenue Committee and Martin Dunn of Dunn Development Corp. discussed the essentials of the development process in New York City today in a conversation moderated by Jarrett Murphy of City Limits.

Read Brass Tacks: Development,” a digest of the event published on Urban Omnibus.


Documenting the Last Projects

May 15, 2017
In our eighth Brass Tacks event, we discussed social experiment of replacing high-rise public housing with mixed-income communities in Chicago through a screening of Ronit Bezalel’s 70 Acres in Chicago: Cabrini Green followed by a discussion with anthropologist Catherine Fennell.

Read Brass Tacks: Public Housing Transformed,” a digest of the event published on Urban Omnibus.


Public Housing’s Future

May 8, 2017
In our seventh Brass Tacks discussion, Rasmia Kirmani-Frye, the President of the Fund for Public Housing, detailed public housing’s unique role in the city and how the New York City Housing Authorityisaddressing the continuing public disinvestment in public housing.

Read Brass Tacks: NYCHA,” a digest of the event published on Urban Omnibus.



April 10, 2017
Representatives of the advocacy organizations Coalition for the Homeless and Picture the Homeless discussed homelessness as a symptom of our housing crisis and efforts to create permanent housing solutions.

Read Beyond Shelter,” a digest of the event published on Urban Omnibus.


What’s “Fair” In Housing?

March 27, 2017 
Fair housing expert Fred Freiberg explained the efforts of housing advocates to eliminate housing discrimination, promote policies that foster inclusive communities, and strengthen enforcement of fair housing laws.

Read Fair Housing for All?,” a digest of the event published on Urban Omnibus.


Documenting Discrimination

March 13, 2017
For our first Brass Tacks film night (more will follow!), we screened three documentary films that explicitly address the ways in which inequality is inscribed in the housing landscape.

Read Discrimination, Documented,” a digest of the event published on Urban Omnibus.


The Money

February 27, 2017
A look at where the money to build and maintain affordable housing comes from and who are the main players in housing finance.

Read The Money,” a digest of the event published on Urban Omnibus.


Affordability Toolbox

February 13, 2017
An overview of the past century of housing regulation and subsidy in New York City, detailing the tools used to create and maintain affordable housing: codes, regulations, non-profit ownership, and subsidies.

Read Brass Tacks: Affordability,” a digest of the event published on Urban Omnibus.


Hud, Hud, HUD!

January 30, 2017
A look at what the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s $49 billion budget supports, who HUD serves, and how housing policy born at the federal level is implemented at the local level.

Read What HUD Does,” a digest of the event published on Urban Omnibus.