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Vacancies Come in All Forms, Even New Affordable Apartments in Brooklyn

A 298-unit, 18-story tower in Pacific Park Brooklyn opened its doors to new renters in various categories of affordability over five months ago. 27% remain empty in the higher income tiers, and unlike market-rate units, the asking rent won't drop.
November 26, 2017, 11am PST | Irvin Dawid
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Posts on vacant housing in Planetizen often deal with what to do with abundance of empty, blighted homes in shrinking Rust Belt cities like Cleveland. Vacant properties exist in New York City as well, and homeless advocates are pressuring the city to track them. But how can one explain vacancies in newly constructed, all-affordable buildings?

Case in point: 535 Carlton in what is now called Pacific Park Brooklyn, renamed from Atlantic Yards in 2014 by the joint development company, Greenland Forest City Partners  "after the Chinese government-owned Greenland Group bought a 70% stake in 15 towers" from Forest City Ratner.

The building broke ground in December 2014. "Mayor Bill de Blasio pronounced the affordability criteria for the development '100% affordable,' and credits the development toward his goal of adding and preserving 200,000 affordable residential units in the next 10 years," notes the Planetizen post that lists the five income tiers eligible for prospective tenants. 

Units were allotted through a city-housing lottery, reports Ginia Bellafante, Big City columnist for The New York Times on Nov. 17. No problem renting out the 25 percent of apartments to tenants who qualified for the "extremely low and "very low" income categories, based on average median income.

Half the apartments, though, were slated for middle-income occupants, and although the lottery received more than 93,000 applications, an inadequate number of qualified tenants in the highest income brackets has left 80 apartments empty.

I recall in my last apartment building, the landlord would lower the asking rent based on how long it remained on the market. That won't be the case in the "all-affordable" 535 Carlton though, explains Bellafante.

The way that these public-private partnerships are structured and underwritten, however, the revenue from more expensive units helps offset the rents of those apartments intended for lower-income tenants (some one-bedroom apartments at 535 Carlton, for example, cost as little as $589 a month). Developers can’t just lower the rents to accommodate demand and keep the projects financially viable.

The developer, Greenland Forest City Partners, is now advertising them via StreetEasy, social media and so on.

No word as to whether the property manager is offering "generous incentives, usually in the form of one, two, or even three months of free rent offered to those who sign leases for high-end apartments," as noted in an August 2016 post on the oversupply of luxury units in Brooklyn.

Additional reading on 535 Carlton:

Full Story:
Published on Friday, November 17, 2017 in The New York Times
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