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If rental buildings getting 421-a benefits must house the homeless, does that include Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park?

The administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio has a new priority: getting developers of buildings with affordable units to house the homeless.

According to reports, the city is focusing on 80/20 buildings, with 80% market-rate and 20% low-income housing, which receive the 421-a tax break.

There are no Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park 80/20 buildings, but rather (so far) one 50/50 market-rate/affordable building, which has 20% low-income housing and two 100% affordable buildings, each with 30% low-income housing. There's also a market-rate condo tower.

All get the 421-a tax break. So I wonder if de Blasio's administration might push to house some homeless households in (some of) the three Atlantic Yards buildings with low-income units.

There may be a (slight) political advantage. After all, these buildings have a lower-percentage of market-rate housing than do the 80/20 buildings.

That suggests there would be a relatively smaller percentage of wealthier households, some of whom might balk at previously homeless neighbors, at least if they perceive "homeless" to mean "street people not getting supportive services," rather than (as the city apparently plans) "poor people dealt a bad hand in a brutal housing market."

Real estate developers, understandably, are divided on de Blasio's program and, presumably, so to are those who'd pay market-rate--or close to it for a middle-income "affordable" units.  For the developers of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, I speculate it might cut both ways: cooperation with the mayor might alienate some paying higher rents, while it also might maintain a relationship for future subsidies.

Community preference units

The pool of new 421-a units to house house low-income households is way smaller than the demand. There's a desperate need to house the homeless, but there's also a desperate competition--among those who presumably have more stable shelter--within affordable housing lotteries to gain access to the relatively few low-income units made available.

The Times reported Saturday, Builders That Got Tax Breaks Must Set Aside Some Units for Homeless, City Says, noting that half the affordable units--10% in an 80/20 building--are assigned under a community preferences policy:
The de Blasio administration now wants up to half of all community-preference units to be reserved for people living in homeless shelters. In a 300-unit building, that could mean up to 15 apartments for tenants who were previously homeless.
Some developers, according to the Times, are "freaked out," while others are more accepting:
City officials have tried to allay those fears, saying the apartments would not go to people who needed extensive social services, but to those who had simply been priced out of New York’s housing market.
Community preference goes partly retroactive

City Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been suggested that the community preference would be used to assign units to the homeless. Surely there are many former residents within Community Boards 2, 3, 6, and 8--the four community districts for which the Atlantic Yards preference is operative--who are in the shelter system.

Then again, surely there were tens of thousands of applications for the low-income units from people who have better credit and whose situation, however housed, is precarious.

If this policy does get applied to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, ironically enough it could represent the partial version of a policy proposed by the community negotiators who in 2014 got a new 2025 deadline for the affordable housing: retroactive community preference for those displaced since the 2006 Atlantic Yards project approval.

The city has not acted on that proposal, which presumably would consider all households who left since 2006, not simply those who left because they had to enter the shelter system.

Story surfaces

The news of the new policy emerged in a 10/21/16 article in The Real Deal, City could require developers to reserve units for the homeless:
Units subject to redesignation include “community preference units,” “mobility disability set-aside units,” “hearing/vision disability set-aside units,” and any other housing set aside for prioritized groups. But under the new guidelines, those units could be “set aside as housing for households then residing in emergency shelter and referred by the City,” as long as they meet certain requirements.
Crain's New York Business on 10/27/16  reported the administration's justification:
"This is the latest reform in our effort to address the homeless crisis we face," said an HPD spokeswoman in a statement. "Addressing homelessness is a moral imperative. These new marketing procedures are another new tool we are using to help reduce the burden for families who are being forced out of their homes."

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