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Does 421-a change eliminate community preference for Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park? Unclear.

Crain's NY Business reported yesterday, in Rebooted 421-a program no longer gives locals first crack at affordable housing:
The revived 421-a program dropped a longstanding provision giving local residents first crack at affordable apartments in their neighborhoods, Crain's has learned. Should the de Blasio administration allow the change to stand, it would be a surprising break from past city housing policy, which has long championed the so-called community-preference rule for subsidized units.
In the case of 421-1, a community preference meant that half of the affordable apartments in a project were marketed first to local residents who can apply to the lottery before the rest of the city. Smaller set-asides exist for veterans, New Yorkers with disabilities and government employees. Last fall the city added a new wrinkle that required developers to market half of the community-preference units to families living in nearby homeless shelters. [That's certain low-income units.] But the new 421-a program, which was renamed Affordable New York when it was approved this spring, will not trigger any of those requirements.
Atlantic Yards impact

That could have a significant impact on Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, since the project was long said to offer community preference--to residents of Community Districts 2, 6, and 8, and then later CD 3 as well--for half the below-market units.

In fact, it was important enough for some housing advocates to ask unsuccessfully if the preference could be retroactive, thus helping people recently displaced.

And the developer is now analyzing the various subsidy programs available.

However, Crain's noted that city subsidy programs do contain community preference. As Gothamist reported:
Mayoral spokesperson Melissa Grace didn't comment directly on the missing community preference language but did tell Gothamist that the mayor's office "will continue to use the community preference as a critical anti-displacement measure in the affordable housing development that the City is financing at record pace."
So if Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park contains affordable units that partake of both Affordable New York and city subsidy programs, the preference may stand.

The strategy behind the change; arguments pro and con

Unlike projects (including Atlantic Yards) that need special approvals, and thus something to offer neighborhoods wary of new developments, the new Affordable New York is as-of-right, requiring no negotiations. So, Crain's notes, the dynamics are different.

An argument for the preference is that it could help people vulnerable to displacement as gentrification proceeds with new housing. An argument against is that, because the preference does not take account tenure in the neighborhood, it could help new arrivals, and thus ignore people already priced out.

Crain's reported that a 2015 replacement for 421-a--on which Affordable New York is now based--was proposed by the de Blasio administration, with the Real Estate Board of New York offering input. The community-preference language was removed during the process, either by the legislature or the city.

Crain's suggests that the "de Blasio administration might not miss one of its favored policies," given a pending lawsuit challenging it.



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