Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Some ambiguous words from new HPD head, City Council housing chair on Atlantic Yards affordable housing

In Point/Counterpoint: Mathew Wambua & Erik Martin Dilan, published 4/25/11, City Hall News asked new Housing, Preservation and Development Commissioner Matthew Wambua and City Council Housing Committee Chair Erik Martin Dilan to discuss various housing issues.

One was Atlantic Yards; here are their somewhat ambiguous comments, in response to the unstated but implied question that Forest City Ratner was scaling back its promises:
Wambua: Atlantic Yards, I had not heard they were scaling back [affordable housing], to tell the truth. I’d heard that they were thinking about a new kind of development, which would be a modular multistory, I think 35-story modular development. But I wasn’t necessarily under the impression they were doing anything less than what they’d anticipated doing so much as different from what they’d anticipated doing.

For our product—the product we develop—for middle-income and lower-income housing, there’s huge significant unaccommodated demand, and so there’s cyclicality to the stuff that we do. In good times, people need us because rents are getting too high. In bad times, people need us even more because they have less income. So that unaccommodated demand isn’t necessarily being changed, depending on where you are in the cycle. So we’ll continue, as we always have, to do gangbuster business.

Dilan: I honestly hope they keep the commitment to build affordable housing. I understand that financing can be challenging at this point. So, for major projects like Atlantic Yards, I think we have to just to hold them to the commitment that they made to that community, and to Brooklyn, as well.
The unanswered question is whether Forest City Ratner will fulfill its commitment without getting additional subsidies from the city.

Wambua's predecessor denied Forest City Ratner such subsidies; I suspect that the request will recur, so we'll see whether Mayor Mike Bloomberg goes to bat for a favored project.

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