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Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what's coming + FAQ (pinned post)

Reminder: Atlantic Yards was a state override of zoning, not an instance of NYC's Mandatory Inclusionary Housing

From a 12/23/20 op-ed in City Limits, Opinion: It’s Time to End Mandatory Inclusionary Housing. Here Are Some Alternatives, criticizing Mayor Bill de Blasio's signature upzoning policy to allow larger buildings if they contain up to 30% affordability, since "it mostly enriches developers and real estate speculators while inflicting real harm to the neighborhoods it’s supposed to help."

The essay and issue, is worth grappling with--accessory dwelling units good, building on transit-absent Floyd Bennett Field not so good--but I'll just respond to this:
Because this policy is based on big-time private sector developers as the main players, the definition of “affordable” gets fuzzier and fuzzier until it means nothing. Supposedly “affordable” is linked to a percentage of the “area median income” (AMI), a metric that is so flawed it prices out most New Yorkers. If you want to see what goes wrong, try to find an “affordable” unit in one of the towers of the Atlantic Yards project.
Criticizing the affordability of Atlantic Yards is legitimate, but it deserves to be unpacked.

Looking at Atlantic Yards

First, Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park was not an example of city-enabled MIH, because it was a state override of zoning, with the affordable housing promised in exchange. 

The affordability promised was a mix of low-, moderate-, and middle-income housing, initially with all affordable units in rental buildings with 50% affordable and 50% market-rate units.

While a mix of units has been built, it has skewed toward middle-income units, at 165% of AMI, not the 130% cited as an example of MIH in the op-ed. (The city's Workforce Option for MIH cites an average income requirement of 115% of AMI, while the text allows income up to 135% of AMI to be factored into the average.)

The affordable percentages in the three buildings so far: 50%, 100%, and 100%, though in the latter two half the units are at 165%.

Four more buildings are under construction, with 30% affordability promised. It's a good bet all or most of the units will be at 130% of AMI, not because of the city's MIH, but because of another housing program, a tax break (rather than a zoning bonus): the 421-a successor, Affordable NY.

Finding affordability at AY

As to "try to find an 'affordable' unit in one of the towers of the Atlantic Yards project," that can be read in two ways. For low-income households, it's a very difficult task, because an enormous number of people were competing for such units, as I wrote for City Limits.

For middle-income households, it's less of a challenge, but the difference between middle-income rents, at 165% of AMI, and market-rate rents is not always so great.

And yes, as I've written, there's a huge disconnect between the affordability configuration promised in the nonbinding Memorandum of Understanding signed by original developer Forest City Ratner and housing group New York ACORN--and incorporated into the "legally-binding" Community Benefits Agreement signed by ACORN and seven other groups--and the affordability configuration required in the Development Agreement signed by New York State. 

The latter only requires the affordable units to participate in a city, state, or federal subsidy or regulatory arrangement. Thus the AMI need not reflect the previous promises and can--as it already could--go higher than MIH.

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