I have an article in today's semi-monthly edition of the web magazine BKLYNR headlined When ‘Affordable’ Rents Push $3,000: With the controversial Atlantic Yards project — recently rebranded ‘Pacific Park’ — the devil is in the details:
The way Mayor Bill de Blasio put it on June 27, it sounded like alchemy. There was a new plan — hammered out with the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the blessing of some Brooklyn activists who’d threatened to sue — to speed up the long-delayed affordable housing promised at the Atlantic Yards site in Brooklyn.
...“We are determined to jump-start affordable housing at Atlantic Yards,” de Blasio declared. “The agreement means two 100 percent affordable buildings will go in the ground starting next year, with units serving a more diverse range of families. And what’s remarkable is that we’ve secured nearly twice as many affordable units [compared with the first, under-construction, Atlantic Yards tower] for our city investment.”
..De Blasio’s cheerful words obscured details that, if not quite a devil’s bargain, surely would have tempered the triumph.
Some details, such as two-bedroom affordable units costing nearly $3,000 (if they opened this year) and income limits (for four-person households) more than $138,000, emerged soon after the announcement, though they were absent from both the Times scoop and the official press releases.
Indeed, 300 of the 600 affordable units would go to households of various sizes in the higher of two middle-income cohorts. That departs from previous promises to distribute the subsidized units more evenly across five income “bands” and tilts eligibility away from average Brooklyn households.
Other details, like the machinations that allow de Blasio to claim a bargain, are explained here for the first time.
The city’s not getting twice as much of the same affordable housing. Rather, those 300 middle-income units will have rents so high, approaching market rate, they don’t qualify for subsidies (though they’ll still get low-interest, tax-exempt financing).
A complication on AMI
Also note this very interesting complication. The New York City Housing Development Corporation lists $85,900 as the Area Median Income (AMI) for 2013.
However, HDC told me that the AMI for buildings opening this year is actually lower:
The income limits are published by HUD [federal Department of Housing and Urban Development] yearly. For year 2014, HUD published two sets of income limits for the NYC Metro area – one set of limits for projects placed in service prior to 12/18/13 (the income limits currently listed on our website which are based on the 4-person AMI of $85,900) and one set for project placed in service after 12/18/13 (which are based on the 4-person AMI of $83,900). As Atlantic Yards has not yet placed in service, they would be subject to the lower limits.