The New York City Council held it’s first meeting regarding pivotal affordable housing proposals last week. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Housing New York plan officially introduced Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) back in September, and now debates are in full force, with the City Council examination signifying a coming conclusion of deliberation and development.

  • The City Council will vote on the proposal in March.
  • Community and housing advocates claim the new rezoning laws fail to help the largest percentage of residents struggling to afford housing.
  • Although critics says these income levels are significantly higher than the largest portion of people in need of assistance, Housing New York is the first proposed order for new developments to make affordable units in areas rezoned for residential growth.
  • Measures to include lower-priced developments without thwarting expansion were proposed.

The New York City Council held its first meeting regarding pivotal affordable housing proposals last week. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Housing New York plan officially introduced Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) back in September, and now debates are in full force, with the City Council examination signifying a coming conclusion of deliberation and development.

The City Council will vote on the proposal in March.

While de Blasio’s plan — to create more than 80,000 new affordable units over the next 10 years — seems hopeful on the surface, critics both inside and outside of Tuesday’s meeting vocalized their concerns with the program. Community and housing advocates claim the new rezoning laws fail to help the largest percentage of residents struggling to afford housing.

MIH requirements

MIH mandates new developments on rezoned land make portions of affordable housing units available to NYC residents. According to the proposal, the City Planning Commission and ultimately the City Council would apply one or both of the following requirements to each MIH area: 25 percent of residential floor areas must be affordable to families who average 60 percent of the area’s median income (AMI), or around $46,620 per family of three; 30 percent of residential floors be made affordable for families averaging 80 percent of the AMI, or about $62,150 per family of three.

Mayor Bill de Blasio/Facebook

Mayor Bill de Blasio/Facebook

Although critics says these income levels are significantly higher than the largest portion of people in need of assistance, Housing New York is the first proposed order for new developments to make affordable units in areas rezoned for residential growth. Still, Council members further exemplified worries with the plan’s limitations.

Councilman Antonio Reynoso of the 34th District (Bushwick) said almost half of the constituents in his area make less than 40 percent of the AMI, or $31,000 per year. Only 7 percent of Bushwick residents would benefit from de Blasio’s pitch.

As New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been pointed out during the hearing, strict affordability rules in marginal areas can hurt new developments for builders who can’t afford to include a high number of affordable units.

Other options

Measures to include lower-priced developments without thwarting expansion were proposed, including the Board of Standards and Appeals offering a hardship waiver to allow low-tier developers a reduced percentage of affordable units or a complete waiver from the mandate. Developers also have the options to build affordable units in an alternative location, and buildings with 10 units or less are not required to include affordable units.

Also included in the policy is the mandate that city agencies can enforce what is referred to as “limited workforce options.” These limitations are enforced in markets where “moderate or middle-income development is marginally financially feasible without subsidy.”

Essentially, the City Council could be barring families making over 130 percent of the AMI, or $101,01 per family of three. However, 30 percent of residential floors must house units with incomes averaging 120 percent AMI, or $93,240 per year for a family of three. These rules do not apply to Manhattan Community Districts 1-8, or south of 96th Street on the east side and south of 110th Street on the west side. Direct subsidies cannot be used in these units.

Email Jennifer Riner

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