City Council strikes affordable housing zoning deal with de Blasio

Stephon Johnson | 3/19/2016, 12:18 p.m.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio achieved a major victory this week when the New York City Council approved ...
Maria Isabel Housing in the Bronx Wikipedia

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio achieved a major victory this week when the New York City Council approved his housing re-zoning plan.

“I am immensely proud of our partnership with Speaker Mark-Viverito and the City Council, and I commend them for their hard work throughout this process,” said de Blasio in a statement. “They have pushed every day to reach as many New Yorkers as possible and to protect our neighborhoods. We look forward to seeing these vital reforms enacted in the days ahead. New York City is now on the verge of implementing the strongest, most progressive affordable housing policies in the nation. Years from now, we will look back on this as a watershed moment when we turned the tide to keep our city a place for everyone.”

De Blasio’s plan underwent a few revisions and was the source of several debates among legislators. Under the current Council-approved plan, the city would require builders to include below-market rate apartment units in new buildings if they want to construct in areas that are rezoned for residential growth or simply building higher (known as mandatory inclusionary housing). It’s the first time something like this requirement would be applied. The Council-approved plan would also give builders the option to set aside below-market rate apartment units for households with salaries averaging 60 percent of the area’s income at the low end or an averaging 80 percent of the area’s median income.

Even with this plan, there were still some issues. What types of households would be eligible for the new units? As part of the agreement, the top inclusionary housing level for developers was lowered from 120 percent of the area median income to 115 percent. That change came with requirement that a portion of the units created in the developments would be set aside for those earning less. Affordability levels were expanded to 40 percent as a result of these talks.

Twenty to 30 percent of all units built in these new developments would be set aside for affordable housing.

“Our work has resulted in a plan that addresses the magnitude of our city’s affordability crisis by encouraging smart, sustainable affordable housing production,” said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito during a news conference at City Hall.

In an emailed statement, LiveOn NY Executive Director Igal Jellinek said that the debate over this housing plan opened the door to the “deep and often invisible need of 200,000 older family members, friends and neighbors living in desperate conditions.”

“LiveOn NY looks forward to working with government partners to ensure that new affordable senior housing will exist in every neighborhood throughout the city,” said Jellinek. “Ultimately, it will be the 200,000 seniors on waiting lists and waves of New Yorkers aging in their communities who will be the judge of how well we as a city did to get it right.” LiveOn NY is an organization that represents older New Yorkers and their caregivers.