Skip to main content

The "housing will go to those that need it the most"? A closer look

So what's "affordable housing," anyway? It means that people pay 30 percent of their income in rent, according to the federal department of Housing and Urban Development.

Affordable housing can serve a variety of groups: low-income, moderate-income and middle-income, even though supporters of the Atlantic Yards project, like Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, have argued, "The jobs and the housing will go to those that need it the most."

The affordable housing plan for the Atlantic Yards project would provide 2250 affordable rentals (of 4500 rentals, plus 2360 market-rate condos), but only about 1125 apartments, half the affordable rentals, would serve those currently waiting for public housing or Section 8 vouchers. That's 16.4 percent of 6860 units.

That's because the plan is better described as a 50/30/20 mixed-income program, with 50 percent of the rentals at market rates, 30 percent for middle- and moderate-income renters, and 20 percent for low-income renters. After all, some 900 of the affordable units would rent for more than $2000 for a four-person family.


Indeed, the term "affordable" was initially used to describe only the lower-income housing, as noted in the accompanying graphic published in a 2/3/06 article from Courier-Life chain. (The graphic, apparently from Forest City Ratner, is obsolete, because it refers to only 4,500 total units, and also because it uses the seemingly-retired "Jobs, Housing, & Hoops" slogan.) The three categories track the city Housing Development Corporation’s 50/30/20 Mixed-Income program, from which the Atlantic Yards project would gain subsidies.

Indeed, at a 5/4/04 City Council hearing, FCR VP Jim Stuckey described the planned project as “50% market, 30% middle-income, 20% affordable.” Now he and others are using the term "affordable" more broadly. It's not inaccurate, but many people don't realize the range that the concept encompasses.

Affordable under $50,000?

At the 5/4/04 hearing of the City Council Economic Development Committee, there seemed to be agreement that affordable housing--meaning lower-income housing--should go to families earning below $50,000. (Click on Forest City Ratner's recently-issued rent chart to enlarge.)

James Sanders, chair of the Council's Economic Development Committee, said:
I would think a lot of us would agree, you are talking 20, 30, 40 thousand in annual income for a family, that is genuinely what we are looking for in the way of affordable housing. And if you are talking about moderate-income, you know, perhaps 50, 60, 70 something like that.

Borough President Marty Markowitz, a former tenant advocate, said:
Well to me affordable housing, middle-income housing is somewhere in the area of 50 to 80 thousand dollars, affordable housing is below that.

Housing cap should be lower

What should be the maximum income for a family eligible for subsidized housing in the Atlantic Yards project? At City Council hearings, Forest City Ratner and ACORN representatives contrasted the Atlantic Yards cap, which then was about $100,000 for a family of four, with affordable housing programs that have income limits as high as $140,000. (Note that the AY cap, according to the graphic at top, now would be above $113,000.)

But the appropriate contrast is the city’s 50/30/20 program, which then had a typical cap of about $110,000. In other words, Atlantic Yards plan offered only a slight improvement in terms of the cap.

When asked for ballpark figures regarding the income limit for affordable housing, however, politicians didn't think the cap should be as high as that eventually negotiated. At a City Council hearing, Markowitz suggested $80,000, while Sanders suggested $90,000.

Stuckey points lower

Council Member Bill DeBlasio noted:
And someone said that that figure could be upwards of 150,000 as an annual income for a family, on the high end of your moderate figure. I have a problem with that…

FCR’s Stuckey responded:
[I]f you are earning $140,000 that that is not considered to be an affordable housing unit or that you created. But if you have created a unit where somebody could, or a family could be earning 30, 40, or 50 thousand dollars, that that is very well an affordable unit.

Stuckey was leaving out a large percentage of the affordable units, but this was before the time that Forest City Ratner was consistently terming all the subsidized rentals "affordable." As initially projected, only a small majority (60% of 2,250, or 1,350) of the subsidized apartments would have been available to families earning $50,000 or less. Now, as I recently pointed out, fewer than half the units would be available to those families.

Actually, an improvement

Quizzed by City Council Member Charles Barron, FCR’s Stuckey tried to explain modifications of the subsidized component of the 50/30/20 program:
I think that we have an opportunity here today to create housing that goes beyond the program that exists today, so that we can reach deeper in to where the housing is really needed.

Stuckey seemed to be pointing to not only a lower cap but a broader range of incomes within the category of subsidized housing. Indeed, many affordable housing programs target only the poor or the relatively well-off, leaving a gap for those families earning 50%-100% of the Area Median Income, or AMI.

In the Atlantic Yards project, originally 900 of the 2250 affordable apartments were targeted to moderate-income people earning 50%-100% of the AMI.

That number has shrunk and, while the effort to reach moderate-income people still represents progress, the distribution of affordable rentals has skewed somewhat toward those better off. Now, only 450 units would go to people in that moderate-income category, with 450 additional units going to those earning above the AMI. Thus, some 40% of the units in the affordable allotment would have relatively high rent; a family of four would pay more than than $2000 a month.

Barron grills Markowitz

At the 5/26/05 hearing of the City Council Economic Development Committee, held a week after the Housing MOU was announced, City Council Member Charles Barron (right) grilled Markowitz. Barron argued that the project was not truly affordable, would foster gentrification, and was not as good as could have been negotiated with proper oversight.

Barron: The housing. Fifty percent is luxury, correct?

Markowitz: Market rate.

Barron: Market rate. That we can't afford.

Markowitz: Right. That's correct.

Barron: That we can't afford.

Markowitz: Yours truly as well.

Barron: That's right. Truly. Truly. Thirty percent moderate, right?

Markowitz: Moderate middle.

Barron: Moderate middle. Most of us can't afford that either.

Markowitz: That's not true.

Barron: Most of us can't. You can say not that's true all you want.

Markowitz (right): I know you can afford it.

Instant gentrification?

Barron: That's 80 percent. Eighty percent. Eighty percent. It's not about me and it's not about you, it's about the people. Eighty percent of our people who are in low-income brackets cannot afford this housing coming in. Twenty percent will be able to afford it. That's the reality. So, when you all say 50 percent affordable housing, that's not true. It is 20 percent low-income, and 80 percent is moderate to high. It's a market rate, cute little term. But 80 percent we can't afford. This is going to be instant gentrification. That community has already been gentrified. And with this proposal it will be instant gentrification. But you don't care about that because the Nets are coming. You gotta play ball. And let me tell you something else, and I'll let you --

Markowitz: I'll wait until you ask me a question, Councilman.

Was this the best way?

Barron: Yes. So those...You know we will, once you say jobs and affordable housing to us, the process goes out the window, and that's my concern here, that I think we could have gotten, even though you got a sweetheart deal you might think from Ratner, we could have done better if he had proper oversight, if we had the power over remapping, rezoning, upzoning, if he had to come through a body with power, that we would do better than what is happening now.

Markowitz: By the way, Council member, as much as those that need housing that make $20,000 a year and $30,000 a year, let me tell you also there are people that have worked for the City of New York that are teachers, firefighters, cops, regular civil service workers, that may earn 45, 50,000 dollars a year that are in dire need of housing too…. The jobs and the housing will go to those that need it the most.
(Emphasis added)

As noted, fewer than half of the affordable rental units would go to families earning $50,000 a year or less. A family with two wage-earning civil servants, with a total income over $100,000, would qualify near the top of the affordable housing category.

In New York these days, such families still face money struggles. But no one at the City Council hearings seemed eager to support subsidies for families with six-figure incomes.


Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

No, security guards can't ban photos. Questions remain about visibility of ID/sticker system.

The bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting June 14, held at 55 Hanson Place, addressed multiple issues, including delays in the project, a new detente with project neighbors,concerns about traffic congestion, upcoming sewer work and demolitions, and an explanation of how high winds caused debris to fly off the under-construction 38 Sixth Avenue building. I'll have more coverage.
Security issues came up several times at the meeting.
Wayne Bailey, a resident who regularly takes photos and videos (that I often use) of construction/operations issues that impact residents, asked representatives of Tishman Construction if the security guard at the sites they're building works for them.
After Tishman Senior VP Eric Reid said yes, Bailey asked why a guard told him not to shoot video of the site, even though he was on a public street.

"I will address it with principals for that security firm," Reid said.
Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton, the …

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what might be coming (post-dated pinned post)

This graphic, posted in November 2017, is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. Note the unbuilt B1 and the proposed shift in bulk to the unbuilt Site 5.

The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change. The project is already well behind that tentative timetable.

How many people are expected?

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park has a projected 6,430 apartments housing 2.1 persons per unit (as per Chapter 4 of the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement), which would mean 13,503 new residents, with 1,890 among them in low-income affordable rentals, and 2,835 in moderate- and middle-income affordable rentals.

That leaves 8,778 people in market-rate rentals and condos, though let's call it 8,358 after subtracting 420 who may live in 200 promised below-market condos. So that's 5,145 in below-market units, though many of them won't be so cheap.


Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park in 2017: no new towers, unfilled affordable units, Islanders prepare to leave, project timetable fuzzy

My 2018 preview.

It was another wait-and-see year for Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, with one big twist--the beginning of a slow goodbye for the New York Islanders--but continued delays for towers, a lost (mostly) 421-a subsidy for condos, and new skepticism about unfilled not-so-affordable housing units.

So ongoing questions linger regarding the project's pace, affordability, and even future ownership.

In my 2017 preview, I predicted--not exactly going out on a limb--that two and likely three more towers would open, though it would be unclear how fast they'd lease up and sell.

Indeed, we've learned that the middle-income below-market units at 461 Dean (which opened in 2016) and 535 Carlton have leased very slowly, while it's too soon to assess progress for commensurate units at 38 Sixth. (At 535 Carlton and 38 Sixth, middle-income units make up half the "100% affordable" buildings.) Meanwhile, many apartments are up for rent at the 550 Vanderbilt condo buildin…