Monday, August 14, 2006

AY vs. waterfront rezoning: affordable housing for 30 years or in perpetuity

How good a deal is the affordable housing component of the Atlantic Yards project? The difference is in the details.

For the Atlantic Yards project, negotiated by Forest City Ratner and ACORN, the Community Benefits Agreement says (p. 24) that the affordable housing program would be "consistent with any applicable governmental programs," not necessarily participating in them.

Forest City Ratner and ACORN officials have said the units would be rent-stabilized, but that promise is not in writing.

Then again, the project would gain from city and state subsidy programs, so participation in rent stabilization may be required. That should be publicly clarified.

30 years or longer?

And there's a time limit. According to the CBA (p. 24), units must remain affordable "for a period of 30 years after such unit is first placed in service."

That seems contradicted by some other statements. According to a May 2005 Brooklyn Papers article, ACORN's Bertha Lewis said it “equally important that there is a guarantee that this housing is permanently affordable.” And HPD spokeswoman Carol Abrams, who estimated that the mortgages would last 30 years, said that units “would be subject to whatever the rent stabilization rules” are after that.

It's better upriver

The 30-year limit is not atypical, but better deals have been negotiated. In the Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning (p. 7), the Inclusionary Housing program requires:
• Registering units into rent stabilization
• Ensuring that rents will be affordable in perpetuity and that future occupants meet maximum income guidelines

The Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning has been criticized for allowing out-of-scale buildings and for affordable housing to be built offsite. But it also shows that public negotiations can lead to permanent affordable housing and guaranteed participation in government rent regulation.

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