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Queens Chronicle

De Blasio unveils massive housing plan

Initiative to create 200,000 affordable units in 10 years praised by officials

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Posted: Thursday, May 8, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:41 am, Thu May 15, 2014.

Mayor de Blasio’s recently unveiled affordable housing plan, “Housing New York: A Five-Borough, Ten-Year Plan,” is mammoth. At more than 100 pages, it lays out the new mayor’s plan for creating a “better and more affordable New York.”

“This plan, over the next 10 years, will create opportunity for so many people who are being priced out of our city,” de Blasio said at a press conference on Monday. “It will be a central pillar in the battle against inequality. This plan took a lot of effort and it will take a lot of effort to implement.”

De Blasio aims to create 200,000 affordable housing units for half a million people — more than the population of Miami, Fla. — the biggest affordable housing plan for any city in the history of the United States, according to the mayor, though the way his administration will go about it is a bit more complicated.

He was praised by almost all Queens elected officials and many of them said it was a much-needed plan for improving city housing.

“I commend Mayor de Blasio for this bold plan to create and retain affordable housing in all five boroughs,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said in a written statement. “It is clear in its goals, precise in the [Area Median Income’s] targeted, and honest about what needs to be done to achieve affordability for more New Yorkers.”

Councilmembers Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Queens), Habitat for Humanity and others released similar statements.

A standout for many officials is de Blasio’s focus on low-income families.

In the past, housing advocates complained affordable housing was not truly affordable for those making less than $60,000 for a family of four.

In de Blasio’s plan, 33 percent of the housing created would be for low-income families and 50 percent would be set aside for middle-income households.

Though de Blasio’s plan was initially applauded, there are questions bubbling up now that lawmakers, advocates and residents have had the opportunity to review the plan more thoroughly.

One of the main concerns involves funding.

According to the proposal, the city will seek funds from both the state and federal levels, which is never a guarantee.

If de Blasio does not raise the funds, it is unclear how he will provide incentives for developers.

In addition, the mayor is seeking to make developments more dense — buildings would take up less ground but be higher, increasing the number of high-rises.

Contrary to former Mayor Bloomberg’s housing plan, de Blasio has no set number of affordable units developers have to include in their projects.

Bloomberg implemented an 80-20 ratio, but de Blasio said the percentage required for developments would be determined on a “case-by-case basis.”

More weight is being placed on preserving affordable housing than developing new units.

According to the plan, only 80,000 new units will be created. The remaining 120,000 will come from already existing spaces, including some basement apartments.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) was not thrilled with the proposed legalization of the otherwise illegal residences.

“For decades, we have fought the City of New York to do more in terms of enforcement against illegal basements,” Avella said in a written statement. “So it is very disconcerting to hear that the mayor wants to undermine the entire City zoning and building code to legalize these units. There is a reason why these apartments are illegal – they are NOT safe.

Along with the plan, de Blasio released a list of case studies on neighborhoods that would be well suited for affordable housing.

For Queens, he named Hunters Point South in Long Island City and Arverne View as ideal locations.

After more than five feet of flooding during Hurricane Sandy in Arverne View, a partnership between the departments of Housing Preservation and Development and Housing and Urban Development, the Housing Development Corp. and Citibank worked together to fiance a project that included a $60 million rehabilitation and resiliency plan in November 2012.

According to de Blasio’s plan, the city will continue to reinforce and expand coastal flood protection infrastructure — sand dunes, wetlands and bulkheads — and advocate flood protection standards.

The city will also attempt to create a loan program to assist low-, moderate- and middle-income property owners. In some cases the loans could be combined with other forms of incentive in exchange for an affordability agreement. Specifics on those incentives are not yet available.

For Hunters Point South, de Blasio lays out the implementation of more mixed-use zoning.

“Hunters Point South is a mixed-use, affordable housing development situated on approximately 30 acres of prime waterfront property,” the plan read. “When complete, the project will be the largest new affordable housing development to be built in the city since the 1970s ... and will include approximately 5,000 housing units, 60 percent of which will be affordable.”

This plan has been in progress since before de Blasio took office but resembles new proposals for East New York, Spring Creek and Cypress Hills in Brooklyn.

Another portion of the plan that will affect Queens is de Blasio’s proposal for NYCHA buildings.

The mayor spoke out against the spike in homelessness and said he will re-introduce an initiative Bloomberg did away with.

This initiative would bump homeless individuals — especially families — to the front of the wait list for a NYCHA apartment.

“I am particularly pleased with the community engagement called for including respectful consultation with NYCHA residents on future plans,” said Van Bramer, whose district has the greatest amount of public housing in the city. “Feeling safe and secure in one’s home is what everyone needs as a baseline for happiness. This plan brings us closer to making that a reality for all in our city.”

The plan is still new and with a lack of funding thus far, it is hard to determine how successful de Blasio’s plan will be.

But the mayor is eager and is looking to begin studying neighborhoods for possible development immediately.

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