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The big unanswered questions--affordability, unit size--regarding affordable housing, in both in-construction and future buildings

I report today on the diminishing but not extinguished chances to deliver the required 2,250 units of affordable housing by the May 31, 2025 deadline, thus allowing developer Greenland Forest City Partners, dominated by Greenland USA, to avoid fines of $2,000 a month for delayed units.

But there are two other important variables regarding the affordable housing beyond the unit count: affordability, and size.

Those questions affect the four under-construction towers and all future towers, of which at least three would include affordability. 

How affordable?

The term "affordable housing" might be better replaced by "income-linked," "income-restricted," or "below-market." (Well, it's mostly below market. )

That's because such housing can range from low-income to middle-income, a huge range, and there are far more low-income households in need of low-cost housing. As I wrote in July, there are two options for 30% affordability under the Affordable New York Plan, with the first including twice as many middle-income as low-income units and the second all middle-income units.

(This is surely being used for the under-construction B4 and B15 towers, and likely for the B12 and B13 towers, all of which promise 30% affordable housing. But future towers with 50% affordable housing can have a different configuration, as we learned with the B3 and B14 towers.)

Remember Area Median Income, is inflated because of the presence of prosperous suburban counties. Under Affordable New York are these options, as of 2020 levels (which will change):

  • 30% of the units must be affordable: at least 10% at up to 70% of AMI and 20% at up to 130% of AMI
  • at least 30% of the units must be affordable at up to 130% of AMI;

Here are the current income limits, by household size, as per my annotation:

Here are rent levels, by unit size, as per my annotation:

How big?

The project, according to the Housing MOU, was supposed to devote 50% of the affordable housing, in floor area, to family-sized units, two-bedroom and larger. 

Sometimes that was misdescribed by proponents as 50% of the units, but such family-sized units take up more floor space, so it's closer to a two-thirds/one-third split. 

That ratio was not met in the first tower, B2 (461 Dean Street), and even provoked the New York City Housing Development Corporation to intervene and get more two-bedroom units, albeit skewed to middle-income households.

That ratio was met with B3 (38 Sixth Ave.) and B14 (535 Carlton Ave.).

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