Tuesday, August 12, 2014

An op-ed on affordable housing has vague prescription: "offerings should aim to have wider income ranges whenever possible"


The authors are Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams; Councilmember Laurie Cumbo, Assemblyman Walter Mosley, and Tucker Reed, the President of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.
They write:
As new units become available, we want to make sure families in our community are the first in line to fill them. In doing so, we have identified several areas where housing policy can be improved to make sure we meet this goal. First is the community preference requirement.
Under current guidelines, residents in Community Board 2 are given preference for half of all new or renovated affordable units within their boundary lines. While this policy is well intended, it is not achieving its goals.
A major reason for this is that many applicants in CB2 (which consists of downtown Brooklyn, the residential and mixed use neighborhoods around it, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard) earn either too much or too little income for the income ranges that are typically made available...
We believe that moving forward, affordable housing offerings should aim to have wider income ranges whenever possible.
This is oddly vague. Are they suggesting that, in general, the 80/20 model, involving 80% market-rate and 20% low-income, should be traded for a 50/30/20 model, involving middle- and moderate-income households (such as with Atlantic Yards and some other projects)? If so, say so. 

Are they saying that, among the 80/20 projects in Downtown Brooklyn, the eligibility for low-income housing should be stretched even more broadly to lower-income households with a lower percentage of Area Median Income (AMI)? If so, say so.

Or are they saying that, among the 80/20 projects in Downtown Brooklyn, the eligibility for low-income housing should be stretched above the low-income threshold to ensure that members of Community Board 2 qualify? That would subvert the law, which premises low-cost financing on the provision of low-income units. But, if so, say so.

They do not explicitly tie the CB 2 problem to another solution they suggest: "when available housing is at or near the border of a community district, local preference should be expanded beyond community board boundaries to include broader zip code boundary lines." But that certainly could ensure that more low-income households would qualify.

They also suggest that a preference for artists might be added in the Brooklyn Cultural District.

And, noting that  housing lottery applicants may be deemed ineligible due to poor credit or for minor errors, more preparation--such as in some recently announced seminars--will be helpful.

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