A City Starved For Affordable Housing

NYC Affordable Housing

The majority of recent college grads who have moved to New York City most likely have at least one horror story they can share about finding, or not finding, an apartment that is within their budget, or that is suitable, or that was nabbed by another eager apartment hunter right before they we’re approved by the landlord to ink the lease. It sucks! This is just the way it is. What’s left of the affordable inventory in the city is tough to get as it trades hands in the blink of an eye and there is so little of it.

For most of the 20.9 percent of New Yorkers supporting a family of three on an annual salary of $19,790 or less, finding a home within their budget is a reality that they struggle with all their life. On February 10, the New York City Council will examine two rezoning proposals brought forth by Mayor de Blasio’s administration, Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA). Both proposals, if passed, could significantly lighten the burden placed on New York residents struggling to make ends meet. Both proposals are part of the mayor’s Housing New York plan, which aims to build and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing across the five boroughs over the next 10 years. No surprise, these proposals call for more action by real estate developers and has caused quite the controversy leading up to tomorrow’s hearing.

According to the New York Department of City Planning’s website, The Mandatory Inclusionary Housing proposal, which has already been approved by the City Planning Commission (CPC), proposes the following requirements:

Main Features of the Policy

  • Affordable housing would be mandatory: When developing in an area of NYC zoned for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, developers would have to commit to affordable units.
  • Affordable housing would be permanent: Unlike former laws, the affordable units would stay affordable, thus adding to the sustainable affordable housing stock of the city
  • 25-30 percent of total project units would meet the affordable guidelines

Under the proposal, the City Planning Commission and ultimately the City Council would apply one or both of these two requirements to each Mandatory Inclusionary Housing area:

  • 25% of residential floor area must be for affordable housing units for residents with incomes averaging 60% AMI ($46,620 per year for a family of three), or
  • 30% of residential floor area must be for affordable housing units for residents with incomes averaging 80% AMI ($62,150 per year for a family of three)

Additionally, no units could be targeted to residents with incomes above 130% AMI ($101,010 per year for a family of three).

Similar to the proposal above, the Zoning for Quality and Affordability proposal has been approved by the City Planning Commission for review by the city. The proposal deals with zoning modifications that would allow for more buildable square feet and altercations in some neighborhoods, which would increase affordable senior housing.

Main features of the policy:

  • Developments could be built taller – no more than one or two stories, in most cases – to fit the additional floor area allowed for buildings providing affordable senior housing or Inclusionary Housing.
  • Introduce a limit on the number of stories for buildings, to ensure that additional stories cannot be squeezed in within these heights

In low-density districts that allow multifamily housing, key changes under the proposal would:

  • Allow for a wider range of affordable senior housing and care facilities
  • Modify zoning that today is designed to produce walkup buildings and allow affordable senior apartments to be built in a building served by an elevator, not exceeding four to six stories

The most common criticisms linked to each plan are that the plan isn’t affordable enough; the increased density and height of buildings will negatively alter the aesthetic of select neighborhoods; community boards and residents fear that any more market-rate housing in select neighborhoods, even if it comes with affordable units, will accelerate gentrification; and some are concerned that the density of buildings will diminish already scant existing parking spaces, according to recent articles in the New York Observer, Curbed and Crain’s New York Business.

What do you think of the proposed changes? Let us know your thoughts on Twitter at @solomonmccown.

 

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