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As second term awaits, de Blasio can cite housing progress, but faces pressure to serve neediest

As his likely second term awaits, Mayor Bill de Blasio is facing pressure from the left/grassroots regarding affordable housing, which necessitates some hard choices. As City Limits reported today, in Massive Rally Demands Adoption of Alternative Housing Proposals:
Those rallying want the mayor to adopt two alternative housing proposals conceived by East Brooklyn Congregations and the Metropolitan Industrial Areas Foundation, faith-based organizations that have long been critical of the mayor’s housing approach. One calls for the rapid construction—within four years—of 15,000 units of senior housing on NYCHA and other city-owned lots and stresses the necessity of targeting low-income households. The other calls for a “top-to-bottom” rehabilitation of NYCHA over the same timeline.
These are proposals worth discussing, though it all comes down to numbers: de Blasio's plan for housing on NYCHA land would include a significant slice of market-rate units, and thus fewer low-income ones.

On 10/10/17, Gotham Gazette reported, Pushing New Affordable Housing Plan, Activists Plan Massive City Hall Rally, citing a non-specific mayoral response:
Mayoral spokesperson Melissa Grace said in an email Saturday, "We are big supporters of building affordable housing, including senior housing on underutilized NYCHA property. We’ve taken that fight on across the city and welcome the organizing and partnership of this and any group pressing to deepen those efforts. We look forward to working together.”
de Blasio, at a previous news conference suggested the city was constrained by the lack of "new housing aid from Washington,” plus the failure for the state to deliver on promised programs.

The de Blasio legacy

All this has led to some assessments. Jarrett Murphy wrote 10/4/17 in City Limits, Bill de Blasio is Still in His First Term and We’re Already Debating His Housing Legacy, that while de Blasio has been meeting ambitious affordable housing numbers, kept the lid on rents for rent-regulated apartments, helped tenants facing eviction, bolstered NYCHA, and created a “mandatory inclusionary housing” requirement for rezonings, "the city’s housing crisis continues."

And that's why coalitions like Real Affordability for All (RAFA) say "his plan does not include nearly enough apartments at the lower income tiers—where the affordability crisis is most acute and most painful."

Murphy suggests that, while de Blasio has made "enlightened and decent" choices, "[i]n two important ways, however, he has leaned toward being a far more conventional politician than his 'Tale of Two Cities' 2013 campaign suggested he would be, or as the times demand."

One is that aforementioned mismatch between the highest need and the working/middle-class, which means the neediest will see little help and also face risks of gentrification and displacement.  (That's without mentioning de Blasio's praise for "affordable" units aimed at those earning six figures, such as at Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park.) The other is to rely on real estate developers.

Writes Murphy:

So the test will be how de Blasio applies the limited resources and authority he has. That could mean skewing the housing plan more—maybe exclusively—toward the poorest households, even if that requires tilting his program toward preserving more apartments and constructing fewer new ones, even if it means a smaller plan altogether. The mayor could also suspend the neighborhood-focused rezonings in favor of more citywide measures to absorb new density and protect tenants. The mayor has already proposed a “mansion tax” on high-end real-estate deals to pay for more senior housing, and he’ll be pushed to consider other taxes to nudge vacant buildings and land onto the market. Instead of merely experimenting with community land trusts, the city could commit to them fully. He could also support ways to strengthen rent regulations if the state legislature goes along.
On 10/5/17, J. David Goodman wrote in the Times, De Blasio Expands Affordable Housing, but Results Aren’t Always Visible, noting the emphasis on preservation rather than creation of affordable units, a testament to the federal constraints on public housing and lack of Koch-era abandoned buildings and vacant land.

Times have changed:
“If under Bloomberg they had offered what they’re offering now, people would have been happy,” said Benjamin Dulchin, the executive director of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, a nonprofit. “But by this point, people are fed up and want real answers. That’s the dilemma they’re in.”
...“At the end of de Blasio’s second term, we’ll ask two questions: Will he have built the 80 percent of the 200,000 units?” said Mr. Dulchin, the housing advocate. “But the other question is, Will the city be more affordable? And a lot of communities are not convinced of that.”
The Daily News crusades

In an editorial today, De Blasio’s base bites back, the Daily News cites "the human reality check" de Blasio faces.

In an editorial yesterday, Build bigger, Bill and create housing for New Yorkers, the Daily News, while acknowledging progress, urges him to heed the protesters:
Grant this much to de Blasio: His housing plan resourcefully squeezes affordable units out of new apartment buildings and meanwhile invests billions into erecting new housing for the needy, even with too little help from the federal government and too few vacant city-owned parcels left. Hearing loud and clear that rents at first weren’t low enough, this year he added $1.9 billion more in capital funds.
But so alarming is the scale of displacement churning neighborhoods that the moment calls for a more dramatic change in the script.


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