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As AMI climbs, a significant slice of Atlantic Yards "affordable housing" seems to track market

How much of the Atlantic Yards affordable housing would be, in the words of a July 2006 Daily News editorial, "real housing for the real Brooklyn"? Only about half.

The newspaper defined that cohort as those "on waiting lists for public housing and Section 8 vouchers." Those seeking Section 8 assistance must earn 50% or less of Area Median Income (AMI). Those seeking public housing can earn up to 80% of AMI. Currently, with the AMI $76,812, that means a four-person household could earn up to $61,540.

Noticing New York's Michael D. D. White recently broke it down, in a post pointing out that the rent for four-person households in the more expensive 900 "affordable" apartments--or 40% of the 2250 total subsidized units--would be $2304 and $2880.

(White produced the graphic above. Click on graphics to enlarge.)

That's at and above many market-rate units in the adjacent neighborhoods. Sure, there are two bedroom apartments that are more expensive, but they may be much larger or with luxury finishes. The Atlantic Yards affordable housing would be (nominally) designed by Frank Gehry, well-located near transit and subject to rent stabilization, but they almost certainly would not have luxury amenities, and they could be as small as 775 square feet.

ACORN's overestimate

As I wrote in July 2006, covering an Atlantic Yards affordable housing information session, ACORN's Bertha Lewis claimed of the middle-class, “These people--they’re paying a minimum of $2500 up to $4000.”

Not only was that the wrong message for the working-class audience, it wasn't true. A quick web search showed a good number of two-bedroom apartments in neighborhoods reasonably close to the project site for under $2500. And so it does again, as shown in the screenshots.

White's critique

White brought up the cost of housing as part of his Jane Jacobs Report Card.. He wrote:
Atlantic Yards will abruptly displace the diverse and longstanding populations in the neighborhoods (including residents with historic ties) and replace them, on a regimented basis, with a brand new set of “sorted” residents. Replacement will not occur until after the substantial vacancy period (likely decades) required to redevelop the 22 acres. Very-low-income families and individuals will be displaced but there will be little provision for them to return. The project will house the minimum number of low-income tenants required under the United State tax code in order for the developer to take away special benefits. There will, however, be no place in the project for the relatively low income families and individuals whose incomes are just above the low income level (see chart).

Most of the developer-envisioned 6,430 units will be for that part of the“luxury” end of the market for people interested in renting or buying in this area of Brooklyn and will not be subject to the more precise income-sorting called for by the regulatory agreement. A total of 2,250 units will be subject to the more particularized income sorting called for by the regulatory agreement requirements. Those units, which will all be referred to as “affordable housing,” will go to people with incomes up to $122,899.20 a year (see chart). Since this will be in the future, actual incomes will be higher. Though sorted into a number of permitted income bands, many of those regimented bands will likely overlap with the incomes of people in the neighborhood who reside in market rate apartments. (Note, however, that any overlap will be apart from families with incomes of a certain range ($38,407 to $46,086.20) who are being afforded no entree into the project. The figures from the chart are for families of four. Families of other sizes may find themselves ineligible for the project if they have incomes at higher or lower levels.) Rents for the “affordable” units will be up to $2,880.45 in 2008 dollars. Since this will be in the future, that figure will be higher.

None of this regimented occupancy is consistent with the interactive strengthening and mutually reinforcing diversity Ms. Jacob’s talks about getting when “visitors sniff out where something vigorous exists already, and come to share it, thereby further supporting it."

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