Wednesday, April 30, 2014

New deputy mayor wants to redefine "affordable" by using neighborhood or borough AMI; will that be part of new Atlantic Yards subsidy?

Mayor Bill de Blasio's affordable housing policy is coming tomorrow and likely will have multiple elements, including new incentives trading density for affordability. Already, unions have proposed wage cuts, policy mavens suggested a transit-oriented focus and streamlined approvals (among other things), and a nonprofit executive called for real and permanent affordability.

(WNYC has a preview, citing an increased capital budget, new tax incentives, a huge push for preservation, potentially transferrable air rights, new rules for a higher percentage of affordable units, protections for rent-regulated apartments, and better supportive housing/homeless services.)

Could "real affordability"--not keyed to regionally-based Area Median Income (AMI)--be a possibility? It's not on WNYC's list.

From Alicia Glen's balancing act, in Crain's Insider 3/23/14, regarding the city's new deputy mayor for housing and economic development:
Ms. Glen also wants to redefine the "affordable" in affordable housing, using neighborhood- or borough-specific area median incomes to better allocate sub-market-rate housing.... "You can't design a whole program around 'I know what feels affordable.' You do have to put some metrics around what affordable housing is."
Rents for first Atlantic Yards tower, B2, as of 2012;
when it opens in 2015, the numbers will have increased
This mismatch issue has been raised all around the city, given that projects promising affordable housing, including Atlantic Yards, include much middle-income housing that, based on AMI, is not affordable to local residents. Nor would it be permanent.

The problem is paying for it.

Making AY more affordable?

Should the de Blasio administration find the money, it certainly could make the affordable Atlantic Yards housing more affordable. Or make the units permanent.

Something may happen. Note the Times coverage of the modular snag:
In recent days, [Forest City CEO MaryAnne] Gilmartin has met with Alicia Glen, the deputy mayor for housing and economic development, to talk about the next three buildings and the possibility of additional housing subsidies for apartments for poor and working-class families.
“We’re going to drive a tough but fair bargain so we can get this project moving,” Ms. Glen said. “We’re not happy about the pace of construction. But we think that modular is something we should continue to pursue across the city.”
But we've already seen Forest City say it can get the project going, both with the modular plan and by recruiting a deep-pocketed new partner, the Chinese government-owned Greenland Group. In the same article reporting Glen's statement, Forest City said it would start three towers, two affordable, using conventional construction.

It has tweaked affordability multiple times in its favor, in the notion of a 50/50 split, in definition of the income "bands," and in the allotment of units, failing to make half the apartments (in floor area) two-bedroom and three-bedroom units, then skewing the 2 BR allotment toward the best-off affordable "band."

Before additional subsidy is provided to Forest City and its new joint venture partner/overseer, why not hold them to their promises?

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