Skip to main content

Featured Post

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

What's low-income affordable housing? The state and city offer different (and shifting) guidelines

Reading the New York State budget book, I was struck by what seemed to be a classification of low-income housing:
Middle Income Housing. $150 million for new construction, adaptive reuse, or reconstruction of rental housing affordable to households that earn between 60 and 130 percent of AMI [Area Median Income]
...New York City Affordable Housing. $100 million for the preservation, restoration or creation of affordable housing units in New York City. All units must be affordable to households earning up to 60 percent of AMI. 
That suggests that low-income housing is defined as up to 60% of AMI. 

But not always. The Furman Center tells us:
The New York State Low-income Housing Tax Credit Program (SLIHC) is modeled after the federal LIHTC Program and provides a dollar-for-dollar reduction in state income taxes to investors in qualified low-income housing. However, it has one major difference: SLIHC-assisted units must serve households with incomes at or below 90 percent of Area Median Income (AMI), as opposed to the 60 percent standard of the federal LIHTC.
The state's COVID Rent Relief Program "will prioritize eligible households with 'greatest economic and social need'" and was open to those with household income below 80% of AMI.

A broader definition

New York City defines low-income as up to 80% of AMI, with three "bands," or tranches: 0-30%, 31-50%, and 51-80%, as shown in the graphic at right.

The Affordable NY tax break, the successor to 421-a, has three scenarios, one with 25% affordability and two with 30% affordability.

Option A:
  • 25% of the units must be affordable: at least 10% at up to 40% of AMI, 10% at up to 60% of AMI, and 5% at up to 130% of AMI; and
  • the project cannot receive any government subsidies other than tax-exempt bond proceeds and 4% tax credits.
The latter offers more low-income units but fewer overall affordable units, so it's no surprise that the developers of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, seeking to deliver a total of 2,250 affordable units under a tight deadline. have chosen

Option B:
30% of the units must be affordable: at least 10% at up to 70% of AMI and 20% at up to 130% of AMI.
The latter offers some low-income units but likely requires subsidies.

Option C:
at least 30% of the units must be affordable at up to 130% of AMI;
the project cannot receive any government subsidies
The latter is the "easiest," in some ways, because it's automatic, if the numbers work, with no need to apply for subsidies. But while it delivers affordable units, defined as income-restricted, it doesn't deliver low-income units.

Note that the definition of "affordable housing" for Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park means it participates in a government subsidy or regulatory program, not the original project promises.

The 2005 Housing MOU

Those with long memories might recall that, when the Atlantic Yards Affordable Housing Memorandum of Understanding was signed in 2005 by developer Forest City Ratner and advocacy group New York ACORN, the project was to include three types of affordable housing: low-income, moderate-income, and middle-income.

And while those definitions were rather malleable, the notion of "low-income" implied a lower percentage of AMI and, of course, that AMI base was lower.

And those 2,250 rental apartments--half the total--were to be divided among five tranches or "bands," associated with percentages of Area Median Income, or AMI. There were three scenarios:
  • Band 1: 31-40% of AMI  (225 units)
  • Band 2: 41-50% of AMI  (675 units)
  • Band 3: 60-80% of AMI, or 60-90%, or 60-100% (450 units)
  • Band 4: 81-100% of AMI, or 91-110%, or 101-140% (450 units)
  • Band 5: 101-140% of AMI, or 111%-150%, or 141-160% (450 units)
Bands 1 and 2 were considered low-income, and Band 3 moderate-income. Band 4, in at least the first and possibly the second scenario, was moderate-income, but in the third scenario middle-income. Band 5 was middle-income.

Ultimately, the third scenario, with the higher percentages of AMI, was the one promulgated by the developer going forward. But that was not borne out, either.