City Council approves Affordable Housing Plan
Mayor de Blasio’s rescue plan to address NYC’s affordable housing crisis received a robust yea vote from NYC Council on March 22nd. This vote occurred only after the Administration agreed to numerous changes demanded by City Council. The affordable housing plan intends to create better-quality buildings with more affordable and senior housing for the fewest taxpayer dollars while allowing increased private development. The Council passed two different laws: the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing plan which requires a percentage of affordable apartments in new residential developments in rezoning areas and the “Zoning for Quality & Affordability” which makes slight changes to building heights and parking requirements to spur more affordable housing.
This victory is the result of a two-year long winding path that hit a roadblock four months ago when all community boards and borough presidents urged the NYC Council to vote down the upzoning plan. The plan was adjusted over the past few months by the City Council in compliance with some of the suggestions made by each neighborhood and the community overall. However this didn’t appease the concerns of some protestors who stood linked hand in superglued hand in NYC Council chambers. Even though they were escorted out, this display made clear there is strong adherence to concerns that the plan could drive more lower-income residents out of their neighborhoods than it would enable those to stay.
Once the city council announced a deal was struck Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito stated, “The scope and magnitude of these proposals cannot be understated. They will fundamentally change how our city approached affordable and senior housing production, and is one of the strongest affordable housing plans in the nation.”
The affordable housing plan version 2.0 has been made more affordable housing friendly. There is a slight increase in the percentage of affordable units within a new building as it adds levels of affordability at different percentage rates under the Area Median Income (AMI). Also developers will have to provide 5% more affordable housing if they choose to meet affordable housing obligations on a site different from the market-rate development. New anti-harassment rules and a tracking system on new affordable units will be implemented. Other alterations to the plan deal with design such as the tabling of height increases in several of the zoning districts, and the limits on the Sliver Rule (nutshell version: prevents narrow buildings that are taller than adjacent buildings) have been rescinded.
Council Member Stephen Levin shared these thoughts on the new legislation, “Permanent” is not a word usually used to describe our ever-changing city. This affordable housing plan marks a line in the sand. No matter how much change our community undergoes affordable housing will always be a fixture in our community. The affordable housing set aside guarantees that a city known for diversity also maintains its economic diversity, and that it always welcomes everyone despite their financial status. Permanent affordable housing is the new normal, and this bill will be a platform on which future affordable housing legislation will be built.”
There is no question that areas under siege of gentrification need more safeguards to maintain affordable housing. “The Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy that the Council [just] passed is the strongest and most progressive in the country. It represents a base that we can work from to ensure that affordable housing is developed in our communities, and has the potential to bring much-needed affordable units to my district,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso.
Mayor de Blasio’s persistence in promoting the plan along with accommodate the community’s input is how this affordable housing plan passed the NYC Council. “Where you begin is not where you end,” stated the mayor.
These new laws are just new tools to aid in realizing the Mayor’s ambitious Affordable Housing Plan. The effectiveness of these tools will only be seen when it is put into practice. Getting an affordable housing plan into practice that mutually benefits residents and developers is a mystery wrapped in an enigma and could turn into a snake eating its tail. Development raises value, which attracts more development, and thus causes a need for more affordable housing where it has been lost in this chain of progress.