Friday, January 16, 2015

In de Blasio's affordable housing victory lap, disconnect between low-income emphasis and claim Atlantic Yards would be template

Mayor Bill de Blasio took a victory lap yesterday, claiming in a press release, Mayor de Blasio Announces More Than 17,300 Units of Affordable Housing Financed in 2014, Enough to House Nearly 42,000 New Yorkers, with the subheading "City exceeds projection of 16,000 units for calendar year 2014 as it begins project to preserve the affordability of 159 low-income co-op units in rapidly gentrifying Fort Greene":
NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced that the City financed the creation and preservation of more than 17,300 affordable units during calendar year 2014. With 11,185 preserved units and 6,191 new construction units financed, the City exceeded its first year projections by more than 1,300 affordable units. Based on average household size, these new and preserved units are enough to affordably house nearly 42,000 New Yorkers.
Preservation of affordable housing—keeping existing residents in their homes, rehabilitating old apartments and building systems, and locking in long-term affordability—is a major element of the Housing New York plan for 200,000 affordable units. The Mayor made the announcement at 45-55 North Elliott Place in Brooklyn, a low-income cooperative home to 159 families earning less than $60,000 per year for a family of four—and many residents considerably less. In December 2014, the administration invested $3.1 million in capital funding, with an additional $250,000 dedicated by Public Advocate Letitia James during her tenure as Council Member, to ensure the building will remain affordable for another 30 years, keeping longtime residents in their homes in this rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. The funding will also provide for upgrades including replacing windows, asbestos removal, elevator rehabilitation and boiler replacement.

Housing New York confronts an affordability crisis that affects families ranging from the most vulnerable to those in the middle class. More than 86 percent of the units financed in 2014 were for extremely low, very low, low-income families (see chart below). And to support housing for critical elements of the city’s workforce—such as nurses, police, firefighters, office workers, and teachers—a further 2,400 units were financed for moderate and middle-income households.
(Emphasis added)

There may be a justification for those moderate- and middle-income units, but if 86% of his plan goes to those at lower incomes, how then could he claim of the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Brooklyn "100% affordable" tower launched last month, "This is a symbol of what we intend to do with our affordable housing plan over and over and over and over"?

In 535 Carlton, 65% of the apartments will go to middle-income households.

Looking at the chart

Do note there's something missing from the chart. While it totes up the overall number of units preserved or started in each income band, it does not distinguish, within each income band, the balance between units preserved or started.

My bet is that the housing starts--as in most of 600 units in two Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park buildings--skew to moderate- and middle-income households, while the units preserved bunch toward lower incomes.


The coverage

No news outlet challenged the disconnect I identified. Both the Times and Crain's raised questions about double-counting--de Blasio is taking credit for 8,700 units that began under predecessor Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Here's coverage in the Daily News, NY1, amNY, the AP, and Gothamist (which linked to doubts about crowing about preservation).

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