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As Forest City presents affordable housing info on B2 at CB2/CB8, some details (few family-size units, estimated rents, modular troubles)

Update: there's also a presentation tonight at 6 pm before Community Board 2. See below left.

Brooklyn Community Board 8 holds its monthly General Meeting tomorrow at 7 pm at Calvary Community Church, 1575 St. John's Place (corner of Buffalo Avenue) and, as shown on the agenda, Forest City Ratner Companies will make a presentation on the affordable housing lottery at 461 Dean Street.

That's the long-delayed 32-story modular tower (aka B2) still under construction at the corner of Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue flanking the Barclays Center, and the lottery, which usually lasts two months, hasn't been announced yet. (Here's the HPD list of lotteries.)

However, given the significant paperwork, it pays to plan ahead.

Some details

While the details of the lottery haven't been released, let me share what we know so far. There will be 181 affordable units, and 181 market-rate units.

First, remember that "affordable housing" does not mean "low-income housing" but rather "income-linked housing," with households paying 30% of their income in rent. In the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park plan, 50% of the rental units are supposed to be "affordable," with five "bands," two of them low-income, one moderate-income, and two middle-income.

The relative lack of affordability in the building was criticized in 2012 by BrooklynSpeaks and various coalition members. “By using up the available subsidies to finance smaller apartments for tenants in higher income brackets, FCRC is making it harder to build truly affordable units elsewhere in the City," said Michelle de la uz of the Fifth Avenue Committee.

Note that the charts below are based on 2012 Area Median Income (which itself includes some wealthy suburbs) of $83,000 for a family of four. Today, the most recently available AMI, according to the NYC HDC, is $86,300 for a four-person household. So add approximately 4% to the numbers.

The chart above, from Forest City, does not describe the configuration of units, however. The chart below, from New York City Housing Development Corporation, does show the configuration, and the rents, again as of 2012.


One thing to remember is that, while the affordable housing was promised as 50% family-sized units--in floor area, though that was often fudged as unit count--this building falls short.

Of the 181 affordable units, only 36, or 20%, are two-bedroom apartments. And those are not distributed evenly among the five affordable "bands." Rather, there are 10 low-income two-bedroom units, in the first two bands, 5 in the moderate-income "band," and 21 in the two middle-income bands, which themselves are not distributed evenly.

Instead, there are 16 units in the higher middle-income band--with rents estimated in 2012 at $2,740 and today likely closer to $2,850.

Why the configuration? Well, as I reported in 2012, the number of two-bedroom units was increased only under pressure from the city, which then acceded to Forest City Ratner's request that they be limited to the highest-income "affordable" cohort, thus generating higher rents.

So the building is 1) not so family friendly and 2) to the extent it does serve families, it skews toward higher-income ones. Note that the next two affordable buildings under construction do have a higher percentage of family-sized apartments--but also skew toward higher-income households.

Other things to consider

Also, note that, while the rest of the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project (excepting the Barclays Center) is now owned by the Greenland Forest City Partners joint venture, this building is owned solely by Forest City.

It's the first, and likely only, Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park tower built via cutting-/bleeding-edge modular construction, which was supposed to save time but instead has taken twice as long to construct.

As I reported, water damage, including mold, led to the gutting of several lower floors of the building--which completely went against the notion of delivering the modules as finished pieces of the tower.

Also, several exterior panels have flapped in the wind, and have required repair.

Some questions

What will the rents be?

Will the affordable and market-rate units be distributed evenly throughout the building?

Will the different bands of affordable units be distributed evenly throughout the building?

How is the building's integrity being guaranteed? By the Department of Buildings? An insurance company?

What will be the impact of the adjacent arena entrance and loading dock? How will building managers be able to coordinate and communicate with arena managers?

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