Thursday, November 13, 2008

Willets Point affordable housing offers more moderate-income housing than AY

The New York Times's article today on the Willets Point deal is headlined Willets Point Project Foes Reach Deal With the City; while Councilman Hiram Monserrate is now on board, there are numerous property owners who have not yet come to agreement and could be subject to eminent domain.

WCBS TV reported that small business owners say a $3 million relocation fund is an insult.

The city will now control more than half of the 62-acre site, according to Crain's. (Here's DDDB on Monserrate's former opposition to eminent domain, which he said should be taken off the table.)

Contrasts with AY

There are some notable contrasts with Atlantic Yards. The city has pursued this development plan via the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which gives the City Council a vote; City Council Member Letitia James remains opposed to AY but never had the clout that Monserrate had, given the state override of zoning.

Also, as reported last December, the city has pursued redevelopment at Willets Point before choosing a developer, aiming to avoid potential legal challenges, as with the Atlantic Yards sequence.

Affordable housing

The big lift was on affordable housing and, ACORN, Forest City Ratner's partner on Atlantic Yards, was in on this deal too. (Is there also a requirement to publicly support the project?)

While similar in percentages to the Atlantic Yards affordable housing deal, the Willets Point plan emphasizes housing for low- and moderate-income families, while the Atlantic Yards plan offers a wider range of units, including those aimed at middle income families earning more than six figures.

The Times reported:
The deal requires that 35 percent of the project’s 5,500 housing units be set aside for families who make less than $99,840 a year, or 130 percent of the city’s median income of $76,800. The original plan reserved just 20 percent of the units for families of those income levels.

It's hardly clear, as with Atlantic Yards, whether there are bonds and other public funding mechanisms to fulfill the affordable housing promises.

Note that 50% of the 4500 rentals in the Atlantic Yards plan would be affordable, and 200 of the announced 1930 condos on site would be subsidized. That's about 38 percent, but the plans are not similar.

More lower-income

The Times reported regarding Willets Point:
The future developer will have to abide by housing guidelines that will require the construction of 820 homes for families who make $38,400 a year or less, which is more housing for low-income families than was required in any of the city’s other recent redevelopment projects, including Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and Hudson Yards, on the west side of Midtown.

The rest of the homes will be distributed as follows: about 330 for families earning $38,400 to $46,080; 770 for families earning $46,080 to $99,840; and the remaining 3,500 or so priced at market value.


Note that $38,400 is 50% of the current Area Median Income (AMI) and that $46,080 is 60% of AMI. Thus, there would be 1150 units for households earning up to 60% of AMI. The top level of income would be 130% of AMI.

According to the housing chart on the Atlantic Yards web site, there would be 900 units for households earning up to 50% of AMI (in the 2006 chart, $35,450) and no units for those earning 50%-60% of AMI.

So there would be a little more low-income housing--but not as much lower-income housing.

There would be 450 units for households earning 60-100% of AMI, 450 units for households earning 101-140% of AMI, and another 450 units for households earning 141-160% of AMI.

The AY housing switch

As I reported in July 2006, the Atlantic Yards affordable housing plan changed. Originally, 900 of the 2250 affordable apartments were promised to moderate-income people earning 50%-100% of AMI.

Now, only 450 units would go to that cohort, and 900 units would be aimed at those earning above the AMI.

While the currently proposed scenario was, in fact, one of three anticipated in the Housing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that ACORN negotiated with developer Forest City Ratner in May 2005, this scenario, which would reap the highest rent, was not the one the developer initially promoted.

Density questions

While Willets Point would also have a convention center and office space, note that 5500 apartments over 62 acres is much less dense than the 6430 apartments planned for the 22-acre Atlantic Yards site. Of course, AY would be closer to a transit hub, but the contrast is still significant.

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