De Blasio Unveils $41B Affordable Housing Plan

NEW YORK (AP/Hamodia) -

Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled his ambitious $41 billion housing plan Monday, promising to embrace density, push developers to include homes for poorer residents and commit city funds to create enough housing over the next decade to house half a million people.

De Blasio, New York City’s first Democratic mayor in 20 years, framed his plan to build and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing within his campaign promise to close the inequality gap and help New Yorkers struggling to stay in their hometown.

“This plan, over the 10 years, will create opportunity for so many people who are currently priced out of the city,” said de Blasio, standing in front of a Brooklyn construction site soon to be an apartment building with half of its units set aside for middle-income and poor residents. “It will be a central pillar in the battle against inequality.”

De Blasio billed the housing plan as the most ambitious in the city’s history and said the units he hopes to build or save would be more than enough to house the populations of such cities as Atlanta and Miami. The mayor outlined the plan in broad strokes, saying that many details would be filled in during the coming months, but suggested that his approach would be multipronged.

An official in the mayor’s office told Hamodia that as the plan is fleshed out in the coming months, there will be tangible benefits in it for the Orthodox community. But since the proposal is limited to developers who build on public land or who ask for zoning changes, it will not affect heavily Jewish population centers as it will in other neighborhoods.

Housing in Boro Park and Williamsburg has reached crisis proportions, with the average rental for a young couple starting at $2,500. Recent initiatives are focused on moving out of the area, such a new Belzer community on the outskirts of Lakewood and several members of the Gerrer and Skverer kehillos moving to Staten Island.

One project that has lain dormant for the past few years, the Culver El in Boro Park, is expected to be speeded up, with officials promising that 2014 will be the year when a raffle can be made for the few dozen apartments on 14th Ave. and 37th Street.

Officials said the city will commit $8.2 billion of public money over the next decade — though it will not take any new bonds, meaning the funding will come from existing revenue sources — and look to receive another $2.9billion from state and federal lawmakers. The city would then try to secure more than $30 billion in private funds.

De Blasio made clear that the city will not build its own structures but will work with private and nonprofit developers. Despite his roots in a liberal and low-slung Brooklyn neighborhood, de Blasio has stressed that he is not afraid of commissioning taller buildings to dot the skyline across the city.

A key piece of his plan will be an emphasis on mandatory inclusionary zoning, a policy that requires developers to include affordable units in new buildings in return for zoning changes to allow for taller buildings and greater density. But that plan, which could be modified on a case-by-case basis, won’t go into effect until next year.

He also said he wanted to move away from the old model in which 80 percent of developments are market rate and 20 percent are affordable. Instead, he is pushing a split where 50 percent are market rate, 30 percent are made available to moderate-income households and 20 percent to lower-income residents.

Officials said they have been begun studying which neighborhoods would be ripe for rezoning for large-scale increases in density, particularly those well-served by mass transit; one contender would appear to be East New York in Brooklyn.

The administration also wants to legalize some illegal basement apartments and seek state approval for more rent-controlled apartments. Nearly a third of the city’s renter households pay over 50 percent of their income in rent, well above the 30 percent federal standard of affordability, according to recent housing data. The mayor’s plan calls for rent subsidies for those struggling to stay out of homeless shelters and incentives to landlords that would dissuade them from raising rents on vulnerable tenants.

“We’re proud that it’s ambitious,” said de Blasio, adding that the plan will also create new jobs in the construction industry. “Yes, it will take everything we’ve got, but that’s what’s needed to address an affordability crisis that we’ve never seen the likes of before.”

Though the mayor enjoys close relations with much of the City Council, councilmembers may be reluctant to give up sway over construction in their neighborhoods; moreover, de Blasio will need the approval of its land-use committee to achieve some of his plan.

Councilman David Greenfield, who chairs that committee, said that he will work to get housing for middle class people in upcoming hearings.

“Mayor de Blasio has certainly laid out an impressive blueprint for building affordable housing. I’m especially pleased that the plan has an emphasis on planning new neighborhoods by including schools, open spaces and infrastructure,” Greenfield said in a statement released to Hamodia. “At the same time, I will continue to push to build even more affordable housing for the middle-class in New York City.”

Though some housing advocates said they wanted to see more specifics before judging the plan, others cheered the proposal.

“This is an ambitious and comprehensive plan that will benefit New Yorkers today and in future generations,” said Bomee Jung, interim head of the New York office of Enterprise Community Partners Inc.