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32BJ supports mayor’s affordable housing plan

Stephon Johnson | 12/10/2015, 4:37 p.m.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing plan has a friend in 32BJ SEIU.
Bill deBlasio

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing plan has a friend in 32BJ SEIU.

The union announced its support for the plan this week, stating that the housing crisis is a major issue and this idea paves the way for addressing it properly.

“The members of 32BJ SEIU are working people, and they’re struggling with the same rising rents and costs of living as every other New Yorker,” said 32BJ President Hector Figueroa in a statement. “That’s why we support Mayor de Blasio’s plan to build and protect 200,000 affordable apartments, and why we are in favor of new zoning rules that will create more quality affordable housing, and why we will be out in force to make these changes happen.”

De Blasio’s proposed plan includes permanent Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, which would require developers to build a set minimum number of affordable units to gain approval for the construction of new residential units. Unlike under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the mandate wouldn’t expire and it wouldn’t be voluntary.

The mayor’s proposal also calls for 25 percent of residential floor area to be reserved for affordable housing units for residents with incomes 60 percent of the Area Median Income on average (that percentage would come out to $46,400 annually for a family of three) or 30 percent of residential area reserved for people with incomes averaging 80 percent of the AMI ($62,150 a year for a family of three.)

Despite the union’s support, the idea hasn’t made much headway in some circles. Last week, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer released a report that showed the affordable units—labeled by the mayor’s plan—wouldn’t be affordable to residents in places such as East New York in Brooklyn.

De Blasio’s plan marked East New York as one of the 15 low-income areas to be rezoned for affordable housing units. The mayor wants 7,000 units constructed by the year 2030 (along with one million new square feet of commercial space) after rezoning Cypress Hills and Ocean Hill. Among the newly constructed apartments, 3,447 would be labeled affordable.

But Stringer’s report states that the median income in East New York is a little more than $32,000. Stringer said Blasio’s plan could displace 50,000 residents.

“For generations, East New York has been overlooked and under-resourced by the city in schools, parks, public transit and affordable housing,” said Stringer in a statement. “However, instead of strengthening the affordability of this community, the proposed rezoning would instead serve as an engine for displacement. The plan’s so-called ‘affordable’ apartments would be too expensive for more than half of current residents, and the introduction of a large number of market rate units could push even more people out of the neighborhood.”

Nevertheless, Figueroa and those at 32BJ SEIU are fond of de Blasio’s plan and gave him credit for what they feel is taking a risk.

“Mayor de Blasio’s proposal is bold, including some of the strongest guidelines for permanent and truly affordable housing in the country,” said Figueroa. “We need this kind of visionary action, and we need it now. We’re at a tipping point—the lack of affordable housing and the continuing squeeze on middle-class people could permanently change New York City by eliminating the vibrant diversity that makes it such a unique place to live and work.”