Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Well more than 83,000 applications for 461 Dean, but does that make it a "successful affordable housing initiative"?

From Bushwick Daily yesterday, How Local Advocates Want to Address Bushwick's Race, Class & Affordable Housing Issues:
Victories for affordable housing are too few and far between, but the panelists made a point of identifying successful affordable housing initiatives and discussing their strengths and weaknesses. Atlantic Yards (at 461 Dean Street) recently closed its housing lottery for places in the 363 unit building (half which are affordable) - a reality that has been 15 years in the making, said [Ismene] Speliotis [Executive Director of the Mutual Housing Association of New York]. “There were over 83,000 online applications,” she said, “and seven bags of applications the size of me in the mail...the mayor needs to listen to the data. It’s empirical evidence of a huge problem.”
My comment:
I wasn't there, but this report by no means makes it clear that 461 Dean Street at Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Brooklyn [aka B2] is a "successful" initiative. The fact that well more than 83,000 people applied is a sign of demand, not success.
Ismene Speliotis, however well meaning, is part of an organization that has a partnership with the developer to market the building (and future buildings with affordable housing) and screen tenants. There's little upside for her to criticize it.
However, at a session for locals about applying to 461 Dean, Speliotis sounded a bit sheepish, saying, "We fight for affordable housing, often for levels that are lower than what is here."
Indeed, 461 Dean, though part of a project that was supposed to have 50% (in square footage) family-sized units (2BR + 3BR), has no 3BR units. The largest segment of *affordable* 2BR units at that building (16 out of 36 total) will rent for more than $3,000, which may be below-market but hardly where the need is greatest.
Note that one reason so many people apply online is that once applicants are in the system, it's relatively easy to apply for the next project.

Other issues

The panel talked about the role of AirBnB in reducing affordable housing, as well as:
“Gentrification is not a dirty word, displacement is,” noted Speliotis. “What we know is that white young people are moving into neighborhoods of color. They are people with means who have a choice to go somewhere else who are occupying units and paying too much for a 3 bedroom apartment, the amount of space which should go to severely rent burdened families.”
Should that be the responsibility of the tenants, or the landlords and real estate agents, and city regulators?

There's a piquant quote from Bertha Lewis of the Black Institute: “[You] can’t build affordable if you don’t give developers their drug."

Perhaps that's her shorthand for the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park deal, as well. The question then is the dosage.

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