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

As with 662 Pacific, "affordable" units at 18 Sixth will be aimed at middle-class, 130% of AMI, but with discounts that recognize market realities. (No one wants a $2,263 "affordable" studio.)

This is the second of three posts about the Nov. 16, 2021 Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life meeting. The first concerned the school, and project updates. The third concerned Barclays Center issues.

We got two nuggets of news regarding affordable housing at the meeting. 

B4: middle-income, like B15

First, just as with B15 (662 Pacific St., aka Plank Road), the upcoming Housing Connect lottery for the income-linked "affordable" units at the B4 (18 Sixth Ave., aka Brooklyn Crossing) tower will be aimed at middle-income households, with a maximum income of 130% of Area Median Income (AMI). That means a lot of people earning six figures. 

(Remember, I reported on solid evidence that the apartments would be aimed at those at 130% of AMI, but the developer refused to confirm it.)

That building should open to market-rate tenants by the end of December or early January, so--if the pattern with B15 persists--the lottery might start by then, with move-ins for the affordable units about four months later. 

That's a delay, since there's no reason--other than bureaucracy--for the lottery not to start several months earlier, so apartments become occupied when the building gets its Temporary Certificate of Occupancy. The affordable B15 units are expected to be occupied beginning in March.

But just as with the units that just entered the lottery from B15, there will be discounts off the allowable rent, which allows for households--especially for the studios--with incomes well below 130% of AMI to qualify.

Discounts reflect reality

Second, the relative discounts offered at B15 are a reflection of the existing market. In other words, if the developers were to seek the maximum allowable rent, the units would be very hard to lease up.

At B15, the rents, followed by the allowable levels in parentheses, are as follows:
  • Studios: $1,547 ($2,263)
  • 1-BRs: $2,273 ($2,838)
  • 2-BRs: $3,219 ($3,397)
There's a much bigger discount for studios (and one-bedrooms) than for two-bedrooms.

At the meeting, Rick Mason, Brodsky's Executive Director of Management, answered some questions (all submitted by me).

"The rents were set after our discussions with HPD [the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development] and MHANY [Mutual Housing Association of New York], who is our marketing agent, regarding the current market conditions and needs in the area," Mason said. "We adjusted the rent levels to provide for the best possible lottery outcome. So we're hoping to get the units rented quickly."

In other words, they expect more demand for larger units.

He confirmed that rent increases are governed by the Rent Guidelines Board, and on vacancy, they can't accelerate the rents. "So these rents will not increase quickly," he said.

Issues of city preference

The lottery offers a general preference for New York City applicants, which means all city residents are ahead of the non residents. 

What happened to community preference, with 50% of units going to residents from the four local community districts? "Per HPD, There's no community preference in this program," he said. Same for those with disabilities.

Adjusting to the rules

In other words, the long-promised plan to make the project more palatable to locals--as with the previous three buildings containing affordable units--goes out the window, because New York State eliminated the requirement on buildings that get the 421-a tax break, renamed Affordable New York. 

As I wrote, there's an open question as to whether New York City could have imposed that.

Asked why HPD eliminated neighborhood preference, Scott Solish of master developer Greenland Forest City Partners,  said, "I don't think Rick or I or anyone on the presenter side has a insight into that."

Well, they should. 

Tobi Jaiyesimi of Empire State Development also pointed to ongoing litigation regarding the community preference issue--though I'd point out that that hasn't stopped the city from continuing it with city-funded buildings.

Solish observed that, "over the years, the city and state have changed the way that they've they've administered the affordable housing programs in terms of their own internal preferences, on how they look to finance projects, as well as changes to the rent laws and all the changes to the 421-a program, as well as the Affordable New York program."

"So along the way, as we continue to develop the maximum amount of affordable units on each site, we continue to adjust unit mixes as well as rents, based upon need and those programs," he said. "But our goal is to deliver the most amount of affordable units consistent with the plan and project requirements."

Keep in mind that, while the Atlantic Yards Affordable Housing Memorandum of Understanding and Community Benefits Agreement promised income-linked housing in five "bands"--two low-income, one moderate-income, and two middle-income--the project's guiding Development Agreement defines affordable housing far more broadly, simply as participating in a city/state/federal program.

Pandemic delay?

When do they expect the housing lottery to start for B4? (That building is developed jointly by Greenland Forest City and Brodsky.)

"We're hopeful that it will start sometime between now and the end of the year," Solish said. "We've been working through the HPD approval process for the lottery.  Obviously working remotely for the most part adds complications."

The lottery, he noted, is 60 days. "Then once you've gone through the lottery, you have to go through, make sure that you've sorted all the applications in a proper way... And then you're once you've gotten the log sorted, you're going through another approval process to make sure that the that the interested applicants are vetted fully both by the landlord-developer side as well as with HPD. So it can take some time to get the tenants in."