Mayor de Blasio Stresses Affordable Housing in State of the City Address

In his State of the City Address on Feb. 3, the New York City mayor made it clear that his overriding priority is affordable housing. He targeted six neighborhoods in all five boroughs where development will be required to include affordable housing.
February 4, 2015, 5am PST | Irvin Dawid
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"Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a number of policies in his State of the City today—but argued that none of them would be possible unless the city tackled his top priority: affordable housing," writes Jillian Jorgensen, senior politics editor for the New York Observer.

His administration plans to build 80,000 units of new affordable housing (and) preserve another 120,000 units—meaning affordable housing for a half-million people.  Mr. de Blasio has called for the construction of 160,000 market rate units as well. 

The big change that de Blasio is calling for to make the affordable housing materialize is to replace the current voluntary inclusionary zoning code with a mandatory one. "Developers who want a property rezoned would have to commit to building permanently affordable housing," writes Jorgensen.

According to The Real Deal, the six new neighborhoods where developers will be required to build affordable units" are:

The market rate housing has some neighborhood activists worried that would mean taller building and gentrification, particularly for one of the targeted neighborhoods, East New York in Brooklyn, described by New York Times writers Vivian Yee and Mireya Navarro as "scarred by decades of grinding poverty and violent crime." 

Residents of the neighborhood are resisting proposals to build taller on streets lined with rowhouses and small apartment buildings.

The mayor's response: “If we do not act — and act boldly — New York risks taking on the qualities of a gated community,” he said in his address.

"But, much like his roll-out of the affordable housing plan, today’s speech contained no information on the percentage of units he’d require a developer to keep affordable," writes Jorgensen.

(Voluntary programs that gave tax breaks to developers called for making 20 percent of units affordable.) And some experts doubt that mandatory inclusionary zoning is a cure-all for unaffordable housing.

"The mayor singled out Sunnyside Yards — 200 acres of underdeveloped land in Queens — as prime for redevelopment," according to The Real Deal. "He proposed moving the rail yard underground in order to create 11,250 affordable units." However, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was quick to take that one off the list, reports The New York Post.

“The [Metropolitan Transportation Authority] uses Sunnyside Yards as an important facility for our transportation system, and it is not available for any other use in the near term,” Cuomo’s spokeswoman, Melissa DeRosa, said in a statement.

The mayor's plan needs the approval of the City Council.

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Published on Tuesday, February 3, 2015 in New York Observer
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