Search results for "mandatory inclusionary housing"

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Fix it, pass it, build it

Controversial California housing bill is amended for both pro-housing and tenant advocates
California State Senator Scott Weiner has unveiled a slate of new amendments aimed at shoring up support behind his controversial housing bill—SB-827—that could potentially spell the beginning of a detente between pro-housing and social justice-focused advocacy groups in the state. In a Medium post published Monday night, Weiner laid the groundwork for this potential reconciliation by addressing some of the thorniest aspects of the bill critics have lamented thus far, while also proposing the addition of key new elements. Additions to SB-827 include mandatory affordable housing requirements, strengthening demolition controls outlined specifically by the bill, and doing away with the most significant height increases allowed by SB-827. Weiner’s bill has been heavily criticized from multiple angles since it was introduced earlier this year. On one side, NIMBY groups have decried the intended effects of the measure—densification along transit stops and an erosion of parking and height limits associated with development in these areas—while groups that represent low-income residents and communities of color have targeted the bill as yet another instance of top-down exploitation. In response to the latter set of critiques, Weiner added a bevy of pro-tenant fixes to the legislation several weeks ago, proposing a so-called “right to remain” that would require developers to offer new units to existing tenants for projects that benefit from the bill’s new development standards, among other fixes. The most recent crop of changes aims to further soften the edges of the bill, while making explicit elements that were only hinted at before. The biggest change comes from the addition of an affordable housing requirement for all but the smallest projects. The bill will now require between 10 and 20 percent of new units constructed to be set aside as deed-restricted affordable housing, with specific allotments made for “low income” and “very low income” households within these new guidelines. The highest inclusionary requirements are triggered for mixed-use projects consisting of 25 percent or more office space, according to the post, with projects made up of nine or fewer units exempt from inclusionary rules. While the proposed bill did not initially propose to strip away local control over building demolitions, the updated language would penalize developers who utilize California’s controversial Ellis Act provision to evict tenants from rent-controlled units. In a significant win for rent-stabilized households, the bill will halt the issuance of a demolition permit on properties that have recorded an Ellis Act eviction within the last five years, meaning that landlords will not be allowed to evict rent-controlled tenants in order to demolish an existing structure to make way for market-rate or luxury development. Going one step further, the bill will also aim for a so-called “no net loss” strategy that will force developers to replace any demolished rent controlled units lost in the process of redevelopment. These protections will apply in addition to the right-to-remain and inclusionary requirements, so if, for example, an existing 10-unit, rent-controlled structure is demolished, the new development must include 10 new rent-controlled units, add roughly one new deed-restricted affordable unit, and allow all ten existing tenants to take up their old leases at similar rents as before, with however many remaining new units set aside as market-rate homes. The new compromises represent a victory for social justice groups and low-income tenants and could potentially smooth out opposition to the bill in some of these communities, though that is yet to be seen. Another key change is that the bill would no longer totally eliminate parking requirements for transit-adjacent areas, but allows up to 0.5 parking stalls per unit for developments located along high-frequency bus routes and for developments located more than a quarter-mile from a rail stop or a ferry terminal. The bill will also require developers to issue monthly transit passes to building tenants. The new bill would also scrap a previous 85-foot height limit imposed on transit-adjacent properties in order to “focus the bill on 45- to 55-foot wood frame buildings,” which Weiner contends are more affordable to build than the steel structure buildings that would be required at the higher limit. The additional height limits will also no longer apply to rapid bus-adjacent sites, though those parcels will still benefit from lower parking and higher density restrictions. The bill is making its way toward formal hearings on the California State Senate floor. For more information on the changes, see Weiner’s post.
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By Dattner

Here’s the first big affordable housing complex slated for East New York
Today the City Planning Commission (CPC) heard development updates from East New York, the first city neighborhood to be completely rezoned under comprehensive affordable housing rules passed in 2015. To achieve the goals of the rezoning, the East New York Neighborhood Plan was approved in April 2016, and now, a year and a half later, there are 1,000 affordable units in the pipeline, plus an 1,000-seat school, and safety-in-mind streetscape improvements along major thoroughfares like Atlantic Avenue to link new developments together. The rezoned area spans 190 square blocks and is the first to apply Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), a suite of rules that require a certain percentage of housing be designated as permanently affordable. In addition to building affordable housing, the East New York plan aims to preserve existing affordable units, while offering legal services to tenants, providing support to homeowners at risk of displacement, and transitioning families in the shelter system into local permanent housing. As far as new construction goes, the city estimates that 6,000 units of affordable housing will be built over the next 15 years. The latest—and largest—of these developments is Chestnut Commons, a 274-unit complex by Dattner Architects on a vacant city-owned site on Atlantic Avenue, near busy Conduit Boulevard. In the affordable housing world, Dattner is best known for Via Verde, an ecological housing complex in the South Bronx it completed with Grimshaw in 2012. Here, the New York City firm is kitting out a 300,000-square-foot complex, called Chestnut Commons, with solar panels, specially-glazed windows, natural lighting, and other design features from the passive house movement that improve building performance by minimizing solar heat gain and thermal bridging. In addition to shared roof terraces for tenants, amenities will include a black box theater operated by a local arts nonprofit, a kitchen incubator for jobs training, and a CUNY Kingsborough satellite campus. The ground floor of the 14-story building will sport retail spaces, and new streetscaping will connect the complex to a cleaned-up Atlantic Avenue corridor (map). The apartments will be geared towards families, though there's no word yet on the units' sizes. At the CPC meeting today, though, a representative from the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development (HPD) confirmed the development will be 100 percent affordable. Half of the units at Chestnut Commons will be available to households making 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), or $51,540 for a family of three. After that, 15 percent of the units will be open to families making 30 percent of the AMI, 20 percent of the units will go to households at 40 AMI, and 15 percent will be available to those at 50 AMI. HPD is working with MHANY Management, the Urban Builders Collaborative, and the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation (CHLDC) to develop the project. The levels of affordability were a major point of contention when the neighborhood plan was passed last year. According to a 2015 report from Comptroller Scott M. Stringer's office, more than half of the affordable units to be developed under the neighborhood plan are too pricey for current residents. (The mayor's office disputed the findings.) Last year, the city confirmed that any HPD-sponsored project in East New York will be 100 percent affordable to families earning between 30 and 90 percent of the AMI.
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Housing Crisis Continues

SFHAC says, “Every neighborhood, every city should provide its fair share of housing.”
California—and the San Francisco Bay Area, in particular—is currently suffering from a prolonged and devastating housing affordability crisis. Housing construction over the last decade has been anemic, relative to previous decades, at a time when the state’s population and economy are both booming.   The San Francisco Housing Alliance Coalition (SFHAC) formed back in 1999 during the first dot-com boom to advocate for inclusive housing policies for the city of San Francisco and has played a significant role as an advocacy group across the region in the decades since. In advance of the organization’s Spring Symposium, The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) spoke with Rob Poole, Development and Communications Manager at SFHAC, to discuss the organization’s recent initiatives, goals and the group’s efforts to help address the housing crisis. For more information on the Spring Symposium, see the SFHAC website. AN: Can you explain a bit about SFHAC’s short-term housing goals for the region? What are a few of the projects or initiatives you are working on getting approved over the next few months or years? Rob Poole: I’ll break this up into short-term versus long-term goals, and local versus regional. At the present moment in San Francisco, we’re in the final stages of passing a program called HOME-SF, the city’s first major tool targeted at creating homes for San Francisco’s middle-class, which has been underserved by the city’s housing policies. Under HOME-SF, developers who build in certain parts of the city (primarily outside of area plans and RH-1 neighborhoods), would have the option to build denser buildings and add two extra stories in exchange for providing a higher percentage of subsidized housing targeted at moderate-and middle-income residents. This program has been in the works for about three years and should finally get passed this month. In addition, the city is about to adopt a new inclusionary ordinance, once again. The most recent requirement was decided upon by the voters and was—frankly—an arbitrary number, 25%. We’re pushing for a data-drive policy, which I’ll touch on later. Both of these measures have taken up a lot of our time. For the more long-term, we consistently search for ways to improve the process for creating housing in San Francisco. The city is known for having an enormously complex and lengthy approval process. We’d like to see more certainty and remove some of the risk for building in a place with a chronic housing shortage. Accessory dwelling units (ADUs), also know as “in-law” homes, are another priority. A couple of state bills were passed last year—AB 2299 and SB 1069—that remove some of the costs for building or home owners to add these. We want to ensure San Francisco is in compliance with the new laws. Stepping outside of our sandbox, SFHAC staff has regularly attended and organized residents to speak at Brisbane City Council hearings in regards to a project called Brisbane Baylands, which borders the southern part of San Francisco. The developer has plans to build a mixed-use project with over 4,400 homes, but the City has pushed for a plan with zero housing because that’s what the most vocal residents down there want. That’s frankly unacceptable and emblematic of the struggles the region faces around local governance. The site is essentially 680 acres of dirt and is adjacent to a Caltrain station. What happens there impacts the entire region as much as it does Brisbane, yet the City Council only has to listen to their voters in a town of about 4,200 people. We’re trying to influence the outcome by showing the City Council their decisions have impacts that extend far beyond their town’s borders. Finally, the conversation around has housing has picked up a lot in Sacramento, which influenced the theme of our Spring Symposium on May 23rd. There are over 130 bills pending in the legislature that address how homes are funded, planned for and approved. SFHAC has taken positions on several of these measures, including SB 35, AB 71, AB 73, AB 915 and SB 167 and AB 678. We give our members the opportunity to weigh in on these bills and stay informed as they work their way through the approval process. We should know what happens with all these by the fall. This is new territory for SFHAC, but it’s likely to only grow in relevance. We cannot expect to solve this problem by allowing cities and suburbs to make land-use decisions independently of one another. Are there target neighborhoods or corridors your organization is seeking to specifically add housing to? Housing should be located where those residents are more likely to walk, bike and take transit to get around. Our land-use decisions must reduce vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) via private automobile use. Otherwise, we will not achieve our environmental goals at the local, regional or state levels. That mindset drives our advocacy. This also falls into an issue we like to call “density equity.” In San Francisco, about 80 percent of the development happens on 20 percent of the land. Most new housing gets built along the eastern and southeastern half of the city while the west side hardly adds any homes. There are a couple reasons for that. Over the past 20 years, the city has spent a lot of effort rezoning neighborhoods, via the Better Neighborhoods Plan, where the land historically had industrial use or been underutilized. As the economy changed, many of the uses became less relevant and it made sense to rezone them for housing. This has primarily been done along the eastern side of the city. The west side is a different story. These neighborhoods are primarily zoned for single-family homes, except along some the transit and commercial corridors. Historically, there’s been a lot of opposition to any kind of change towards the built environment, which makes it difficult to build housing there. SFHAC believes these neighborhoods need to step up and provide their fair share of homes. We acknowledge it doesn’t make sense to build towers out there because the transit isn’t as sufficient, but it’s not fair nor good planning to allow one side of the city to stay frozen in time while the other half takes on all the new housing. HOME-SF will help move the needle. At the regional level, there are so many municipalities that simply don’t contribute. Brisbane is just one example. But there are numerous cases where organized opposition will use every tool at their disposal, be it California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) appeals, lawsuits or just turning out people to public hearings, to influence outcomes. As a result, housing is built further away from jobs where there are less people to oppose it. The recent report from the California Department of Finance reaffirms this trend. There aren’t any incentives or penalties for cities that don’t do their part. Some of the state bills, such as SB 35, would change this. There’s been lots of talk lately regarding inclusionary zoning requirements—current requirements are too high, don’t go far enough; inclusionary zoning actually dampens market-rate housing production—what is SFHAC’s position on inclusionary zoning? Inclusionary housing is a smart tool to provide homes for low-income residents, especially in expensive markets. SFHAC was at the table in 2002 with then-Supervisor Mark Leno when we crafted San Francisco’s first mandatory inclusionary ordinance. Since then, the program has resulted in over 4,600 below-market-rate homes (BMR), for both rental and ownership. Those are homes for people who otherwise may have been priced out of the city. On the flip side, that doesn’t come remotely close to meeting the need. For example, there was a recent project along Market Street that had 144 applicants for every one BMR. Some think the solution is to make the requirement higher, based on the idea that developers make so much money and market-rate homes will never be affordable to anyone besides the rich. We reject that notion. Inclusionary zoning policies should be data-driven so they do not restrict supply of market-rate housing, because that is tomorrow’s middle-class housing. Last June, San Francisco voters passed a measure that more than doubled the inclusionary requirements, from 12 to 25-percent on-site. There was no study to support whether this was financially feasible. Since then, applications for new projects have dropped significantly. So what will probably happen in the long run is we’ll see less homes get built than may have had we not changed the requirement, which will drive up the price of market-rate homes. That’s scary to imagine considering how expensive it is already. Keep in mind, the subsidy that makes BMRs affordable comes from the rents of the market-rate units. That means if the requirement is set too high, only the most luxurious projects are likely to get built, because those are the ones that pencil out. It’s the smaller projects and the developers with less money that get cut out from the process. As a result, we remove any possibility of building naturally affordable housing (a concept known as “filtering”). To put an end to my long-winded answer…I want to reiterate that SFHAC supports inclusionary zoning. It is one tool in the toolbox. But cities should not rely on it as the end-all, be-all solution for housing. It does not scale to the severity of the problem. And unless Congress decides to quintuple the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s budget, we will not be able to subsidize our way of the problem. Planners, politicians, developers and architects will have to accept that they’ll need to get much more creative with how they approach housing in the open market. I know that’s not the most popular idea politically, but I don’t see how else we can change course given the lack of support from the federal and state government. Do you have anything else to add? Yes. I think we’re at the beginning stages of a new era in regards to how the general public perceives this issue, at least in the more urban parts of California. People are starting to understand that the status quo does not work. Now, instead of the loud Not-In-My-Backyard (NIMBY) voice that local elected officials are used to hearing, they’re listening to the Yes-In-My-Backyard (YIMBY) voices. This is a political movement. We’re starting from a tough place, however. The policies we’ve adopted over the past several decades promote sprawl, aren’t friendly to newcomers and still result in economic and racial exclusion. This will not change unless there are organized, thoughtful and influential groups working to shift the tide. At SFHAC, we bring all the parties together—the private sector, city staff, politicians, YIMBYs and even those who don’t agree with us (at least if we’re able to)—to form pro-housing solutions that result in choices for people of all income levels. It took many years to get us into this hole we’re in today and it will take a long time to climb our way out. But given some of the recent decisions that have been made here in San Francisco and even at the ballot in Los Angeles, as well as the political energy in Sacramento, I think we’re on our way there.  
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Shacked Up

Major affordable housing developments coming to East Harlem and the Bronx
New York City is set to get hundreds of new units of affordable housing in the Bronx and Manhattan. On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio's office welcomed news that the City Council had approved four developments in the Bronx and East Harlem. Lawmakers had previously rejected rezonings that would've allowed affordable developments in Sunnyside, Cobble Hill, and Inwood, three major blows to the mayor's plan to build or preserve 200,000 units for low- and middle-income households over the next decade. In the Bronx, the biggest project is the redevelopment of the Lambert Houses, a $600 million initiative that will bring two elementary schools, a renovation of a local park, and $12.3 million in transit infrastructure improvements to the West Farms neighborhood. All units at the other Bronx developments, Morrisania's Melrose Commons and West Farms's Second Farms, will be completely rent-regulated. At East Harlem's Lexington Gardens, 20 percent of the units will be let for more than median rents, Politico reports. The complex, designed by Curtis + Ginsberg Architects and developed by L+M Development Partners and Tahl Propp Equities' Lexington Gardens, is a 400-unit development bounded by Park Avenue, East 108th Street, and East 107th Street. Retail, parking, and space for nonprofits will occupy a 15-story, 411,725-square-foot structure. The building is zoned for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), which ensures that units will remain permanently affordable. 20 percent of the Lexington Gardens apartments will be available to households making one-third of the area median income (AMI), which is $24,480 for a family of three, while an additional 30 percent will be offered to those making half of the AMI, or $40,800 for a three-person household. The full-block development portends residential construction elsewhere in the neighborhood: The pending East Harlem rezoning could bring 3,500 units to the area in the coming years.  
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La Central

Plans for massive South Bronx affordable housing project move forward
A New York City Council committee has approved La Central, a major affordable housing development that heralds change for the South Bronx. Designed by New York–based FXFOWLE, La Central is a one-million-square-foot, 992-unit complex on city-owned vacant land in Melrose that will be built under the auspices of New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development in collaboration with private and nonprofit developers, as well as community-based social services organizations. The five-building complex, organized around a village green–type square, includes retail space, 160 units of supportive housing for homeless veterans and people with HIV/AIDS, plus a plethora of mixed-use projects: Television studios for Bronxnet, a new YMCA, and an urban farm "training garden" operated by GrowNYC. The area is alight with new development: La Central is adjacent to a Bjarke Ingels Group-designed police station, the future home of the 40th Precinct. At a September 8 meeting, the City Council Committee on Land Use approved five land use modifications to allow the development to move forward. The committee sanctioned the designation of an urban development action area for the parcels between Bergen and Brook Avenues; waived open space, yard, height, and setback requirements for the mixed-use development; allowed a C6-2 district to replace existing M1-1 and C4-4 districts; and applied Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) to the lots that will host apartments. The complex will be the largest so far to utilize MIH, which requires developers to provide a certain number of permanently affordable units and is a key part of Mayor de Blasio's plan to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing in the next decade. Despite ostensible support in the council, MIH has faced opposition in practice: Last month, the City Council defeated a privately developed MIH project in Inwood. Nevertheless, hopes for affordable housing development remain high at City Hall: “I believe La Central is a project that can truly help to move the South Bronx forward,” the mayor told the Daily News. The project is expected to be complete in 2017.
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Sherman Plaza Defeated

In a sharp blow to Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing plan, city council votes “no” on Inwood rezoning

In a sharp rebuke of Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing plan, the city council voted down a zoning change that would have allowed a 15-story development on a prime corner in the northern Manhattan neighborhood of Inwood.

The council’s August 16 vote followed a decision earlier in the day from the Committee on Land Use, which voted against a proposed rezoning brought forth by Washington Square Partners, the developer of Sherman Plaza, a mixed-use structure designed by New York–based Kenneth Park Architects at 4650 Broadway.

Sherman Plaza was slated to be the first individual development zoned for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), a key provision of the mayor’s plan to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade. The development would have offered 20 percent of the units at 40 percent of the area median income (AMI) or 30 percent of units at 80 percent of the AMI, which in 2015 was $86,300 for a family of four. Residents believed that the development’s affordability was not deep enough for the neighborhood.

The community is now mostly zoned R7-2, a moderate density designation that encourages five- to eight-story structures with generous street setbacks. The proposed change would have established a higher density R8X and R9A district plus a C2-4 district within that R8X-R9A district at the corner of Broadway and Sherman Avenue.The City Planning Commission (CPC) approved a proposed rezoning of that site that would set a height limit of 175 feet.

Residents praise the architectural character of Inwood’s art deco apartment buildings. The neighborhood’s features, though, are conditioned by height factor zoning: The FAR is tied to the height of the building, so tower-in-the-park–style buildings have larger setbacks and a higher FAR, while shorter buildings earn a lower FAR and sit closer to the curb.

The project caught heat in the lead-up to the August meeting from residents and civic groups concerned about its impact on the neighborhood. Sherman Plaza was originally conceived as a 23-story, 375,000-square-foot development with 350 units and ground floor retail. In May, Community Board 12 quietly okayed the plans without alerting residents. The Municipal Art Society testified against the development at a City Planning Commission meeting that same month, citing its high affordability thresholds and out-of-context aesthetics. Neighbors were worried that, because of the sloping topography, Sherman Plaza would plunge adjacent Fort Tryon Park into shadow.

Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez represents the neighborhood, and didn’t take a public position on Sherman Plaza until a groundswell of community opposition forced him to come out forcefully against the development the day before the city council meeting. His office released a statement that acknowledged a lack of affordable housing in the district and outlined his position on new development: “[Developments] must be 50 percent affordable, have ample space for community cultural and nonprofit organizations and be supportive of our small businesses, and with key assurances in place that it will go forward as posed [sic].”

At the committee meeting, Rodriguez explained his position before voting down the proposed rezoning: “I was listening to the community for months. It’s important to preserve the landscape of the community.” He added that under Mayor Bloomberg, only 250 units of affordable housing were added to the neighborhood, and that many renters, his household included, receive preferential rents that could increase dramatically if Inwood’s housing market heats up.

Council members from the Committee on Land Use and the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises followed Rodriguez’s lead to vote 15-0 in opposition to the rezoning. Council members traditionally have first pass on developments in their district, and other members defer to the decision of the official from the affected district.

Community activists from an array of local groups in the room cheered the committee’s decision.

Donovan Richards Jr., chair of the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, offered a thinly veiled rebuke of Rodriguez’s position. “It’s very easy to say no, it’s harder to build consensus on land-use issues,” he said.

“The committee has heard countless difficult and controversial applications,” Committee on Land Use chair David Greenfield added. “Our city’s challenge is not if, but how, we grow.Despite the enthusiasm from the chairs [assembled citizens], today is not a happy day.”

Mayor de Blasio, too, chided opponents of Sherman Plaza after the vote. At a Bronx press conference the next day, he lamented that the development could move forward with fewer units and no affordable housing. “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face,” De Blasio told MIH supporters in the council— including Rodriguez—who oppose MIH developments in their neighborhood.

The developers were predictably unhappy. Washington Square Partners issued the following statement post-vote:

“We are disappointed with the decision not to vote in favor of our application to rezone Sherman Plaza but want to thank Community Board 12, Borough President Brewer, the City Planning Commission and the Mayor for working with us over the last two years in support of the project. The project was an opportunity to develop 175 affordable apartments and we are disappointed the local council member did not agree with us.”

A spokesperson for the developer said her client was “surprised by how much attention” Sherman Plaza received, but noted that next steps for the project are under wraps. WNYC reported that Washington Square Partners may move forward with a plan that includes no affordable housing.

Inwood resident and architect Suzanna Malitz applauded the committee’s decision. While Malitz and fellow members of Uptown for Bernie in attendance opposed Sherman Plaza, she supports contextual development east of 10th Avenue along an industrial strip that fronts the Harlem River. There’s “plenty of space” there for denser developments that include affordable housing, she explained.

Rezoning this area is a top priority of the Inwood NYC Neighborhood Plan, a coalition of city agencies, nonprofits, and community groups working through the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) to envision the neighborhood’s future growth, with an eye towards developing the largely industrial areas east of 10th Avenue. Although the plan’s study area extends north from Dyckman Street and doesn’t include Sherman Plaza, if realized, its key provisions will most likely affect surrounding areas, the Bronx included.

New York–based Studio V collaborated with NYCEDC to make the vision more tangible. “Inwood is extraordinary. It has unique conditions—the grid shifts between the east and west sides, it’s bounded by two rivers, and has old growth forests in Inwood Hill Park. There’s a huge opportunity to develop the waterfront along the Harlem River and Sherman Creek, so the area goes from being an edge to being a center,” said Jay Valgora, Studio V’s founding principal. The firm’s renderings show an array of towers that could be developed on both banks of the Harlem River if the east side is upzoned. The east side can support greater density without cutting into the neighborhood’s beloved deco fabric, Valgora explained. 

Cheramie Mondesire attended NYCEDC-led meeting but was dissatisfied with the proceedings. At the second meeting she attended “it was all scripted. They couldn’t answer questions that were not on the script.” The Metropolitan Council on Housing was there to organize residents, and Mondersire, who has lived in the neighborhood for 42 years, attended their meetings to learn how MIH could be applied in Inwood. She agreed that the area east of 10th Avenue would be better suited for dense development than the middle of the neighborhood’s fabric.

Pat Courtney of Inwood Preservation added that the transportation infrastructure is not equipped to serve an influx of new residents, especially with a lack of local bus routes. “Thecommunity is beautiful, well-coordinated, and well-planned. New development should be scaled to existing buildings.”

State assemblymember Guillermo Linares opposed Sherman Plaza, noting that developments like these accelerate the process of gentrification. “You see what happened in lower Manhattan and Williamsburg. In my district, there’s a high concentration of low and middle-income families who cannot afford the housing that’s being built.” Linares cited Sherman Creek as a potential area for “100 percent affordable housing” that includes ground floor retail to enliven the streetscape.

 
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In second State of the City address, Mayor de Blasio focuses on New York City housing
Last year, in his first State of the City address, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would use every tool at his disposal to address economic inequality. He twice repeated a campaign refrain that New York had become a "Tale of Two Cities" where the wealthy do extraordinarily well and everyone else struggles to get by. To change that, the new mayor laid out a host of legislative priorities including an ambitious affordable housing plan that would build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade. One year later, we have an update. With 17,300 affordable units already financed (1,300 more than scheduled), the mayor came back before New Yorkers to say he would do even more to try to keep their rents in check. Most notably, De Blasio plans to boost the city's overall housing supply by creating a taller, denser New York. In addition to his 200,000 unit affordable housing plan, he aims to build 160,000 market-rate units to decrease overall demand. "We are not embarking on a mission to build towering skyscrapers where they don’t belong," De Blasio, who will certainly face development backlash down the road, said today. "We have a duty to protect and preserve the culture and character of our neighborhoods, and we will do so." A key piece of creating new units, both affordable and market-rate, will be rezoning neighborhoods. The mayor said his administration plans to do just that "from East New York to Long Island City; from Flushing West to East Harlem; from downtown Staten Island to the Jerome Avenue Corridor in the Bronx." Per the mayor's mandatory inclusionary zoning requirement, all new market-rate development would have to include affordable housing as well. What percentage of units would be designated affordable has not yet been announced. Along with these rezonings, the mayor said he will continue working with local stakeholders to study ways to build a 200-acre, mixed-use development on top of a rail yard in Sunnyside, Queens. And without offering many specifics, he also called to reform the Department of Buildings to speed up development overall. As part of his push for increased development, de Blasio directly addressed concerns about gentrification. "If you ask 8.4 million New Yorkers what they think of gentrification, you’ll get 8.4 million different answers," he said. To limit the type of displacement that is currently occurring in New York City, the mayor will continue to push for stronger rent laws at the state level. Barring cooperation from Albany, De Blasio said the city will act on its own. "In any of the areas in which the city rezones, if we find evidence that tenants are being harassed, we will supply those tenants with legal representation, at no cost, to take their case to Housing Court," he said. Along with new development, the mayor wants to see big investments in transportation, including a citywide ferry service that will be operational in 2017. For the cost of a Metrocard swipe, said the mayor, residents of the Rockaways, Red Hook, and Soundview could take a ferry ride to Manhattan. The mayor also said his administration plans to complete 20 bus rapid transit routes over the next four years.
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New York Affordable Housing Experts Weigh In on De Blasio’s Pending Housing Plan
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has been promising to “preserve or construct” nearly 200,000 units of affordable housing since his days as the most unlikely of mayoral contenders. Since stepping into City Hall, the mayor has repeated that pledge nearly every chance he gets. But while the affordable housing plan is one of his central policy issues, it’s still not clear how the city can hit the mayor’s magic number. That should change this week when de Blasio’s housing team releases their detailed plan of action. Before that plan is released, however, AN asked some of the city’s leading architects, advocates, and planners what they hope to see in the team’s path forward. David Burney Former Commissioner Department of Design and Construction “While we all expect the mayor to focus on mandatory inclusionary zoning as a means of increasing the supply of affordable housing, I am hopeful that other possibilities will not be overlooked. We need affordable housing, but in the right places—in the neighborhoods that need it. We also need to develop that housing near to transit. One unfortunate policy of the Bloomberg administration was the down zoning of neighborhoods close to public transit—where we need more density not less. Hopefully the new administration will take a fresh look at that downzoning. Another proposal that deserves attention is the one from Michael Lappin and Mark Willis to help small builder/developers build affordable rental housing on small lots, using a participatory loan program.” Karen Kubey Executive Director Institute for Public Architecture “Affordable housing is at the core of a livable city and design in the public interest. New Yorkers need an ambitious, achievable housing plan, one that provides not only more affordable apartments, but also a wide range of housing models and an investment in quality, lasting architecture. In line with this, the Institute for Public Architecture recently launched ‘Total Reset,’ a long-term initiative supporting efforts to improve public and affordable housing in New York. We applaud Mayor de Blasio for making affordable housing a priority again for New York City.” Bill Stein Principal Dattner Architects “From a design point of view—while maintaining all the regulations and requirements—any way that the approval and review process by various agencies can be simplified and streamlined would go a long way toward developing more affordable housing more quickly. From a broader perspective, I hope the plan encourages some degree of innovation and experimentation in building types and housing types. … Finding sites is a key challenge for affordable housing in New York City. Sites that are available tend to be more difficult and expensive to develop: irregular dimensions, significant topography, other environmental factors, etc. The administration’s housing plan can help address this challenge by the creative use of underutilized land, whether through a program for NYCHA sites, rezoning where appropriate or enhanced incentives for mixed use/mixed income developments.” Adam Friedman Director Pratt Center for Community Development “There are three things that we are particularly focused on: First of all, mandatory inclusionary housing, which we would argue should be citywide above a certain density. Second, a strategy for legalizing what are now accessory dwelling units. Third, something we would not want to see is more rezoning of manufacturing to residential. A lot of that has already been done under the Bloomberg Administration and we want to understand why so much of that hasn’t been developed. And we would want to make sure the prospect of those zoning changes includes a strategy for retaining those jobs.” Andrew Berman Executive Director Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation “The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation strongly supports efforts to keep our neighborhoods and New York City a diverse and affordable place to live. We hope that the Mayor’s plan will do that while respecting the scale and character of our communities and those qualities, which draw people to our neighborhoods and make them wonderful places to live.  We hope that the Mayor will not buy into the REBNY canard that unfettered development and a weakening of historic preservation and zoning protections will somehow make New York City more affordable, as opposed to simply lining developers’ pockets and destroying some of our city’s most beloved landmarks and neighborhoods.” Jaron Benjamin Executive Director Metropolitan Council on Housing "We're hoping the mayor targets, one, preserving our existing affordable housing. Two, he’s looking looking at responsible ways to involve the NYCHA communities in what happens. And three, we’re hoping that Mayor de Blasio, unlike his predecessor, really looks at responsible ways to build affordable housing. And finally, we’re going to look at how he plans to reduce the ranks of the homeless."
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Lift Me Up Before You Grow Grow

New York State Assembly to vote on lifting city’s density caps
New York State’s legislature is set to vote on a budget resolution that would lift the floor area ratio (FAR) caps in New York City for residential development, a proposition that the de Blasio administration seems to be onboard with. In a major budget bill for 2018-2019 working its way through the State Senate (S7506A), legislators have included a provision that would nullify the FAR cap installed in 1961. Floor area ratio is determined by dividing a building’s usable floor area by the overall lot’s square footage and is capped at 12 in the city’s highest density districts; therefore, indirectly influencing the height and bulk of new developments. The bill still has to pass a State Legislature vote on the clause (S6760) in two weeks before the Senate’s version can advance, though a similar proposal failed to pass in the 2015-2016 session, likely due to public backlash. The Municipal Art Society (MAS) has continually lobbied against such efforts, and this attempt is no different. MAS and the New York Landmarks Conservancy have decried the move, claiming that it would only lead to taller, bulkier glass towers that would displace existing residents. Not everyone feels the same way. Lifting the FAR cap would benefit Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing agenda, according to the city, as it would provide more space in market-rate developments for affordable housing. Building taller has been a core pillar of the mayor’s sometimes contentious Mandatory Inclusionary Housing plan, and as City Council member Rory Lancman argued in a recent op-ed, building taller is the only way out of the city’s affordable housing crisis. The Regional Plan Association (RPA) also agrees with the move, and recently put out a report highlighting how lifting the FAR cap would bolster income and increase diversity throughout the city’s lower-slung neighborhoods. Any removal of density caps would have to align with New York City's current city planning principals, which use FAR to guide development, so it's uncertain how quickly the impact of such a change would be felt. Of course, the RPA plan presumes that any changes would be accompanied by design guidelines and mechanisms to prevent real estate speculation. It remains to be seen whether the city or state government would enact such procedures if the budget manages to pass. New York residents interested in letting their voice be heard (on either side of the issue) can email or call their local Assembly Member before the vote, using the directory found here.
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Harlem Rezoned

Sweeping East Harlem rezoning greenlights a wave of new development
After rounds of contentious public hearings and protests from those on both sides of the debate, the New York City Council unanimously approved a wide-ranging rezoning for the East Harlem neighborhood on November 30th, as well as the 750,000-square foot, mixed-use Sendero Verde development. The latest rezoning plan covers a 96-block area from East 106th Street to East 138th Street and is meant to address the looming affordable housing crisis facing the neighborhood. Proponents of the move have said that East Harlem, where half of all residents are rent-burdened, or spend more than one-third of their income on rent, will lose 200 to 500 units of affordable housing per year without intervention. Officials from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development have argued that, by allowing higher density development, mandatory inclusionary housing requirements will be triggered and necessitate that 20 to 25 percent of the units in new developments will be affordable. After Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Viverito formed a neighborhood plan in 2015 that laid out what the community wanted out of a potential rezoning, neighborhood groups and Community Board 11 later pushed back after they felt their recommendations had been ignored. A new deal, struck by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Mayor Bill de Blasio before the final vote, now caps building heights at a maximum of 325 feet along the neighborhood’s transit corridors, to limit density and address pushback from East Harlem residents. Other than the new development limits, city officials included a $222 million investment into improving the lives of current residents, including a $50 million concession for New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) East Harlem buildings and $102 million for a new public park between East 125th Street and East 132nd Street. Still, some residents feel that the new deal doesn’t hew closely enough to the Neighborhood Plan, that the city should have taken rent-stabilized buildings out of the rezoning area, and that the definition of “affordable housing” will need to be more reflective of a neighborhood with a median income of $30,000 a year. Also on the City Council’s docket was the approval of the Handel Architects-designed Sendero Verde project, a 680-unit, fully affordable mixed-use development built to passive house standards. Anticipating that the rezoning would pass, Sendero Verde will occupy an entire block, from East 111th to 112th Street, between Park and Madison avenues. Although the development will replace four existing community gardens, it also includes a DREAM charter school, grocery store, YMCA, restaurant, and Mount Sinai-run health facility. East Harlem is already changing rapidly, with several new projects from well-known studios, such as Bjarke Ingels Group’s (BIG) Gotham East 126th Residential having broken ground in recent months. The full, finalized list of changes made to the East Harlem rezoning plan can be read here.
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King of Queens

Long Island City riverside development would bring Queens one of its tallest towers
New York City’s outer borough may be getting yet another tall tower, as a recently revealed development in Long Island City, Queens, would bring thousands of residential units to an industrial corner of the neighborhood. As the New York Times reports, landlord Plaxall Realty has proposed converting its 15-acre riverside property into a mixed-use development that would include 5,000 apartments, 3.1 acres of public space, and 335,000 square feet set aside for manufacturing. The plan from New York-based WXY lays out not only retail and restaurant options for the site, but an additional 70-story tower that would become one of tallest in Queens if it were actually built. The borough has seen more of these projects lately, with the 984-foot City View Tower still on track to become Queens' first supertall tower. Anable Basin, the 1,000-foot long artificial channel that the development takes its name from, would anchor the 6-block complex. While Anable Basin was used as an industrial shipping port since its construction in 1868, Plaxall wants to modernize the inlet by ringing it with an elevated esplanade, installing flood barriers, and building docks for kayakers. Plaxall, a plastic container company who used to house factories in the area, has also called for the creation of an “innovation zone” in the development. 335,000 square feet of light manufacturing space will be set-aside in a co-working and living style arrangement, and Anable Basin residents could potentially leave their apartments and head straight down to their ground-floor studio space. Such a large project would trigger the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) requirements, and Plaxall has stated that approximately 1,250 of the proposed 4,995 units would be affordable. The details released yesterday make no mention of how affordability would be determined. Converting an area historically zoned as industrial will come with a set of caveats. Plaxall will need to have the area rezoned, and may sell the entire parcel even if they can find a development partner. If the proposal moves ahead, the Anable Basin special district would allow the public to access a section of the western Queens’ waterfront that had been closed off for centuries. Already in possession of 13 acres, Plaxall has been confident that the private landlords holding the other two will be on board with the scheme. Paula Kirby, granddaughter of Plaxall founder Louis Pfohl, told the Times that Anable Basin was “a unique opportunity to really make a skyline for Long Island City,” The New York City Department of City Planning will hold the first public comment hearing in early December. Construction is slated to begin in 2020.
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DCP

With new plan, NYC seeks to revitalize Downtown Far Rockaway
In a nearly unanimous vote, on July 10th the City Planning Commission approved the rezoning and revitalization plan for Downtown Far Rockaway in Queens, as first reported by CityLand. The plan aims to re-establish Downtown Far Rockaway as the peninsula’s commercial and transportation hub through new zoning that encourages mixed-use development, new public spaces, improved pedestrian walkways, and better access to community services. It's also one of several neighborhood rezonings in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s push to build more affordable housing. Downtown Far Rockaway is the historic commercial core of the peninsula: located near Rockaway Beach and Jamaica Bay, it's serviced by stops on the A train as well as the LIRR. The area has not been rezoned since the 1961 Zoning Resolution that subsequently prevented residential developments in the commercial and manufacturing zones that feature extensively in the area. Downtown Far Rockaway also has few local employment opportunities, little open space, and poor pedestrian access. Rezoning, which is the plan’s backbone, would foster new residential and mixed-use developments, especially on the area's larger streets. One part of Far Rockaway would also be designated an Urban Renewal Area, which would enable the City to purchase and transfer properties to developers. The “roadmap for action” plan also aims to incorporate the current community by improving existing commercial spaces and local businesses as well as increasing accessibility to job training, education, and community services. According to CityLand, the city is already investing $100 million in the area, with improvements including "streetscape reconstruction, sewer upgrades, park improvements, storefront improvement, and library upgrades." The plan was passed with conditions that include community-based project labor, a new school and park, and limits on up-zoning. Additionally, a 22-block area (bounded by Caffrey Avenue, Redfern Avenue, Nameoke Avenue, Beach 22nd Street, and Gateway Boulevard) would be designated for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing. The final vote will be made by Major de Blasio, who has already indicated his support of local neighborhood rezoning and revitalization plans.