No actual critics were quoted in the article, though a couple appear in the comments section. While the state Housing Finance Agency's 80/20 financing plan is surely vulnerable to criticism, the 80 DeKalb project, as I wrote in April, may be a relative bargain for taxpayers.
$1.5 million per unit is low
The FCR project, along with three others, was selected among 14 projects for the state agency's bonds, because "we view [the 80 DeKalb project] as an efficient use of a scarce resource," said Priscilla Almodovar, President and Chief Executive Officer of HFA. "[T]he developer agreed to limit its allocation to $1.5 million per low-income unit--lower than our $1.7 million ceiling--and agreed to permanent affordability for its low-income units rather than for just 30 years.
(The subsidy does not mean $1.5 million per unit; rather, $1.5 million is the amount of tax-exempt bonds allowed. A fraction of that figure--a 25% difference in interest rate between taxable and tax-exempt bonds--represents the subsidy, with most of that absorbed by federal taxpayers. Hence the federal limit, aka "volume cap," on the capacity of states and cities to authorize tax-exempt bonds.)
The three other projects moving ahead, all in Manhattan, requested $1.65 million, $1.7 million, and $1.9 million per unit, though two will be permanently affordable to low-income tenants, while the Brooklyn project will offer a different version of permanent affordability, to somewhat higher-income tenants.
The real questions
As I wrote, Forest City Ratner, part of a publicly-traded company based in Cleveland, is likely not sacrificing profits on 80 DeKalb. Rather, its relatively low bonding request per unit likely reflects a smart decision acquiring the property inexpensively in 1989 and seeing (likely, helping) it get rezoned a dozen years later to accommodate residential development, thus boosting the value of the land.
So the first unanswered question is how the land was rezoned. [Update: While this was previous to the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning, it was part of a Special Downtown District in 2001 and thus a fairly thorough rezoning.]
The larger question is whether a similar fate awaits Atlantic Yards. Though the financing of Atlantic Yards remains murky, it's reasonable to speculate that, given the significant amount of subsidies and tax breaks for Atlantic Yards, plus the advantage of eminent domain, Forest City Ratner may be able to successfully compete for the scarce pool of tax exempt bonds offered by the city Housing Development Corporation by asking for somewhat less per unit than other 50/30/20 projects that include 50% market-rate units, 30% middle-income units, and 20% low-income units.
And that's an argument for a full accounting of subsidies and public costs for AY, before such a decision is made.