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Queens Chronicle

Making room for affordable housing

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Posted: Thursday, August 22, 2013 10:30 am

A new report put out by the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development and Councilman Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn) last Friday shows that the city’s affordable housing strategy isn’t producing enough units.

ANHD, which represents nonprofit affordable housing groups, found that the inclusionary zoning plan, which gives developers the option to create larger complexes if they agree to make 20 percent of the homes permanent affordable developments, has generated 2,700 affordable units since 2005. While that number may seem high, it only accounts for less than 2 percent of all apartments developed in the city during that time.

What’s more, while rents continue to skyrocket, annual income has hit a plateau. The Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University conducted a study that found the median monthly rent in the city rose by 8.5 percent from 2007 to 2011, yet real wages — payment that takes inflation into account — dropped after the 2008 economic collapse.

That is why Lander is calling on the city to make inclusionary zoning mandatory.

“As New York City housing prices continue to rise, many of our low- and middle-income neighbors are struggling to find affordable housing,” said Lander, the former director of the Pratt Center for Community Development which specializes in urban planning and policy.

“In Manhattan’s West Side and North Brooklyn, our report found that inclusionary zoning has made a real difference by building thousands of new affordable units. But other neighborhoods have been left behind, seeing mostly development of more expensive new housing. We need to make inclusionary zoning a citywide program and ensure that affordable housing is a guaranteed part of new developments.”

According to the report, a majority of the afforable units built under inclusionary zoning are located on Manhattan’s West Side and the waterfront of Williamsburg and Greenpoint in Brooklyn,” he added. “In two dozen other areas where such zoning was permitted, only 6 percent of the residential developments were deemed affordable — suitable for those with incomes of $68,700 or less.

Mayor Bloomberg’s affordable housing plan, which sought to create 160,000 units by the end of his term, should be completed on time and New York City has one of the strongest affordable housing programs in the nation, according to ANHD.

And yet City Council members like Councilwoman Diana Reyna (D-Queens, Brooklyn), who represents highly industrial, middle- to low-income areas, are calling on the city to do much more.

“I don’t know if one mandatory program is the answer but I do know that what’s in place today is not enough in this housing crisis,” Reyna said. “The inclusionary zoning was a tool that came out in 2005 and it took two years for them to implement it.”

Reyna said that her district, which includes a sliver of Ridgewood that is being considered for Industrial Business Zoning, has fallen victim not only to higher rents but a removal of local manufacturing jobs.

“A majority of manufacturing land has been rezoned over the years with the promise of creating new housing units that target areas where there is need for economic opportunity and yet we see time and time again that this never happens.”

The councilwoman, who represents areas of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, which have both seen a major overhaul in luxury apartments, said that the lack of jobs and affordable housing have turned low- and middle-income areas into pressure cookers as more and more families struggle to keep their heads over water.

As it stands, Bloomberg has voiced no intention of re-drafting his affordable housing plan, meaning the burden of finding homes for the thousands of New Yorkers living on a modest budget will likely fall on the newly elected mayor come November.

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