Op-Ed: New York's Affordable Housing More Corrupt than Helpful

A columnist takes the recent scandal involving disgraced former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver as a particularly heinous example of how far astray affordable housing policy is from its intended goal.

1 minute read

February 12, 2015, 9:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


"Sheldon Silver, the New York State Assembly's speaker for the past 21 years, was indicted last month for taking millions in kickbacks from the real-estate lobby, among other special interests," reports Randal John Meyer.

"According to the federal complaint against Silver, he is accused of taking approximately $4 million in kickbacks, most of it from real-estate interests, in exchange for granting favors via the assembly's role in two development programs -- 421-a and 80/20. 421-a provides substantial tax exemptions for developers that create new residential buildings and reserve 20 percent of the units for affordable housing, or that, in lieu of creating affordable housing on-site, create it elsewhere or buy "certificates" from other developers that do."

The main thrust of Meyer's article argues, however, that New York's ostensibly progressive plans to support those living in poverty, have had the opposite effect in recent times.

"Between 2004 and 2014, the number of properties given 421-a tax breaks tripled, and the gentrification debate in New York drew national attention. While gentrification is an expected process in city growth, in this case government intervention caused prices in the market to rise beyond what they should have been -- and quickly. The programs greatly reduced the cost of generating newer housing, with more amenities, at increased rents, in the most desirable areas of the city."

Wednesday, February 11, 2015 in Real Clear Policy

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