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A telling affordable housing statistic: upper middle-income units 43% of total so far, rather than 20%

Exactly 782 below-market units (of 1,242 total apartments) have been built in Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park rental buildings. That represents 34.8% of the pledged 2,250 affordable units.

But the distribution hardly confirms to the original pledge. Within the total affordable units, 20% were supposed to go to upper middle-income units in the highest income band, known as Band 5. That would mean 156 apartments within the current total.

Instead, because of a skewing toward middle-income units (which I wrote about for City Limits), the percentage is more than double: 336 of the 782 affordable units, or 43%, are in Band 5.

At 535 Carlton, those households are paying rent at 160% of Area Median Income (AMI): $2,137 for a studio, $2,680 for a 1-bedroom, $3,223 for a two-bedroom, and $3,716 for a three-bedroom. (Rent at 38 Sixth is slightly lower, and rent at 461 Dean another notch lower.)

It's been tough to fill those units. Not only has Greenland Forest City had to look for more tenants beyond the lottery, it even began offering renters one month free on a year-long lease--a discount typically associated with market-rate units.

The original pledge

Overall, Band 5 was supposed to make up 450 units: 20% of the total affordable units, or 10% of overall rentals, according to the 2005 Affordable Housing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that original developer Forest City Ratner signed with the advocacy group ACORN. More on that below.

Here's the breakdown of the 336 Band 5 units built so far. The first tower, 461 Dean, has 36; 535 Carlton has 148 such units, and 38 Sixth has 152.

Going forward, will skewing go the other way?

If there 450 Band 5 units are expected, and 336 are already built, that would leave just 114 Band 5 units, at least if the original pledge is followed.

Going forward, 1,468 below-market units are required to be built. Those 114 Band 5 units would make up just 7.8% of the total affordable units in the future.

By contrast, there are 254 Band 1 and 2 low-income units so far. The first tower, 461 Dean, has 73; 535 Carlton has 90 such units, and 38 Sixth has 91. That's 32.5% of the affordable units built so far, but the MOU says they're supposed to represent 40% of such units. 

Meanwhile, the moderate-income Band 3 is supposed to represent 20% of the affordable units, or 156 of the current total. Instead, there's a total of 65: 461 Dean has 36; 535 Carlton has 15 such units, and 38 Sixth has 14.

And the lower band of the middle-income units, Band 4, is supposed to represent 20% of the affordable units, or 156 of the current total. Instead, there's a total of 126: 461 Dean has 36; 535 Carlton has 44 such units, and 38 Sixth has 46.

Stay tuned to see if a re-skewing actually happens. Keep in mind that there's no requirement to conform to the MOU. The project's Development Agreement broadly defines affordable housing as participating in government subsidy programs. Beyond that, a certain fraction must be low-income units for tax-code purposes.

The 2005 Housing MOU

Note that the first two categories below in the ACORN agreement are low-income, the third moderate-income, and the fourth and fifth middle-income. Area Median Income (AMI) has risen significantly since then, from $62,800 in 2005, for a four-person household, to $95,400 in 2017.

However, that does not reflect a much lower rise in New York City incomes, because AMI incorporates wealthier suburban counties. Also note that the percentages are described as relating to the total number of rental units. Within the separate universe of affordable units, the percentages below should be doubled.

From 2005 Housing MOU: note that the percentages apply to the total number of rentals. Those percentages should
be doubled to account for the distribution within the affordable cohort. Note that AMI has risen significantly.

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