Thompson Reuters Foundation News published an Op-Ed by New York Conference’s Brendan Cheney on the need to address the city’s and the nation’s housing crisis to keep people safe. The flooding caused by Hurricane Ida highlighted how people are living in unsafe housing, including deadly basement apartments, because they cannot afford safe housing.

The destruction from Hurricane Ida made plain what housing advocates in New York have been saying for years: the severe housing crisis and shortage is a matter of life and death. Rents have been increasing at a faster rate than income for nearly two decades, and the lack of sufficient production in big, in-demand markets like New York, has forced low-income Americans into unsafe, substandard housing like illegal basement apartments.

The results are truly devastating. The flash flooding killed at least 44 people in four Northeastern states. Of the 13 people who tragically lost their lives in New York City from the hurricane, at least 11 people died in basement apartments during extreme flooding they could not escape because their homes were not safe.

This unthinkable tragedy should be a wake-up call to Americans across the country that we need to get serious about addressing our housing shortage. Until we do, Ida will not be the last housing tragedy – and the next one may be worse.

Read the Op-Ed here.