Posts tagged with "Affordable Housing":

Billionaires’ Row residents sue New York City over proposed homeless shelter

Some of the residents of 'Billionaires’ Row,' a stretch of apartment towers in New York City that boast some of the highest real estate prices in the world, announced Monday that they are suing the city in an attempt to stop a homeless shelter from opening in their neighborhood. The West 58th Street Coalition, which represents the homeowners, renters, and business owners in the area, filed a lawsuit aiming to stop the old Park Savoy Hotel at 158 West 58th Street from being converted into a shelter for 140 men. The group claimed that the 70-room hotel was not up to fire safety standards and could pose a threat to future residents and neighbors. Mayor Bill de Blasio first announced the $60.8 million plan to convert the hotel in February as part of his 'Turning the Tide on Homeless' initiative, which aspires to open 90 new shelters in the city in the next five years. Fourteen other shelters and hotels already exist in the midtown district and according to the New York Daily News, the coalition cited the latest proposed shelter as “an unjustified effort and unjustifiable expense, serving a political end.” “While we understand the need to shelter the city’s homeless,” the coalition writes in their petition posted on Change.org, “we believe that the Mayor’s Turning the Tide plan is deeply flawed.” The group claims that de Blasio is not addressing the underlying issue affecting the city’s growing homeless population: lack of affordable housing. With over 65,000 people without shelter, they said, the plan does not do enough to fix the problem and instead intends to “drop shelters in neighborhoods all over the city, with zero partnership on the part of the communities impacted and worse prospects for the homeless ever breaking out of the cycle of homelessness.” Mayor de Blasio has made the creation and maintenance of affordable housing a cornerstone of his tenure, and his office has exceeded expectations towards that end. The West 58th Street Coalition also states that the city did not inform them of the plans for the hotel, or alert their local elected officials or police precinct, but the city argues officials were given proper notice on January 9. The Department of Buildings has issued a stop-work order after news broke earlier this year that construction had already begun on the hotel.   The Park Savoy Hotel, which is located one block south from Central Park, sits in the shadow of the Christian de-Portzamparc-designed supertall, One57. Also lining the famously-expensive street is 423 Park by Raphael Viñoly, 220 Central Park South by Robert A.M. Stern, and 53W53 by Jean Nouvel.

Philadelphia passes affordable housing tax on new construction, but it may not last

Philadelphia’s City Council narrowly approved a tax on new construction projects last Thursday, in a 9-to-8 vote that may not stand up to mayoral scrutiny. The measure would bring in about $22 million a year for affordable housing, but trade unions and developers are arguing that the tax would slow the city's economic growth. The one percent tax on new construction and significant redevelopments is part of a sweeping package aimed at boosting the city’s affordable housing tools. In a move to capitalize on Philadelphia's meteoric building boom, the fee would apply to projects of any scope and be paid when filing a building permit. Funds from the new construction tax would go into a Housing Trust Fund, which non- and for-profit developers could tap for construction or closing costs. A zoning change was also included in the measure, which would allow developers to increase the height and density of their projects in exchange for making 10 percent of their rental and condo units affordable. Opting into the zoning bonus would not preclude developers from also paying the new tax. “Affordable” units, in this measure’s language, would be open to households who have lived in Philadelphia for at least three years, and who make less than a combined $105,000 a year; 120 percent of the city’s median income. Not everyone is on board, and building trade unions, developers, businesses, and some affordable housing advocates around Philadelphia have come out against the tax on new construction. In a letter to the City Council’s finance committee ahead of a vote earlier in the month, trade unions came out swinging against the tax, arguing that it would dissuade Amazon from picking the city for its second headquarters. On the other end, affordable and low-income housing advocates feel the $105,000 income cap is too generous, and that the city should do more to tighten the requirements. Of course, the tax’s passage is far from assured. Sources within the City Council have reportedly indicated that Mayor Jim Kenney is likely to veto the bill over the rising pushback in a move similar to Seattle’s recent head tax controversy. The veto would be the first of Kenney’s career, and would require 12 City Council votes to override–far from a sure thing, considering the slim margin that the bill originally passed with.

Amazon, Starbucks, and other Seattle corporations claw back affordable housing tax

After the passage of a tax on mega-companies that seemed like a victory for Seattle’s affordable housing advocates less than a month ago, Amazon, Starbucks, and other Seattle-based businesses have banded together to lobby for its repeal. The strategy seems to have worked, and Seattle’s City Council met today to consider rolling back the tax ahead of a November referendum forced by the business community. Business groups raised over $200,000 after the passage of the so-called “head tax,” which would have billed companies grossing $20 million a year or more $275 per employee (bargained down from $500) for five years, to gather the signatures required for a repeal referendum. Whether the referendum would have been held or not, the pressure generated has caused Mayor Jenny Durkan and the City Council to act. In a statement released yesterday, The Mayor’s office pledged to consider repealing the tax, which originally passed with unanimous City Council support. “It is clear that the ordinance will lead to a prolonged, expensive political fight over the next five months that will do nothing to tackle our urgent housing and homelessness crisis. These challenges can only be addressed together as a city, and as importantly, as a state and a region. “We heard you. This week, the City Council is moving forward with the consideration of legislation to repeal the current tax on large businesses to address the homelessness crisis.” Amazon had originally threatened to halt all expansion in Seattle when the first iteration of the head tax was floated by officials, but backed down and resumed construction on their downtown projects when the measure passed. The tax would have raised $47 million for the construction of 591 units of affordable housing throughout Seattle and services for the homeless. In a late afternoon voting session, it now appears that the head tax has been repealed by a 7 to 2 margin.

New York City issues first call for affordable housing requiring modular construction

New York City’s affordable buildings are now going up in blocks as part of Mayor de Blasio’s Housing New York 2.0 plan released late last year. The more ambitious sequel to 2014’s original Housing New York, the new plan calls for a shift towards modular construction on affordable housing projects as a time- and cost-saving measure. Now, the first request for proposals (RFP) has been issued for a city-owned modular development. As reported by The Real Deal, NYC's Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) first issued the RFP for a modular, 100 percent affordable building in East New York on May 24. The L-shaped plot is owned by the city and covers approximately 49,397 square feet at 581 Grant Street, between Pitkin and Glenmore Avenues along Elder Lane, adjacent to the Grant Avenue A station. For the city’s first mandated modular project, HPD is looking to develop a mixed-use building with 100 percent of the units allocated for affordable housing across all income levels. Ten percent of the units will be set aside for the formerly homeless. Interested parties have until September 10, 2018, to submit their proposals. Modular construction has taken off in a big way as of late and is one of the many tools that the de Blasio administration wants to use to hit 300,000 units of new or preserved units of housing by 2026 (up from 200,000 units in the 2014 plan). Boston is gearing up to open a new modular unit factory, and modular design/build start-up Katerra is continuing its impressive expansion across the West Coast. AN will follow this article up after a team for 581 Grant Street has been selected.

Renderings unveiled for Yeezy Home’s first affordable housing prototype

Less than a month after launching the Yeezy Home architecture studio, Kanye West and collaborators Jalil Peraza, Petra Kustrin, Nejc Skufca and Vadik Marmelado have unveiled initial renderings for a prefabricated affordable housing prototype. Renderings for the speculative design project were unveiled via Peraza’s Instagram account over the weekend. The images depict photorealistic renderings of concrete paneled apartment interiors and are labeled as a “low-income housing scheme” by Peraza. The slick interior images betray the minimal-meets-sumptuous vernacular West favors, showcasing views of a sleek, sun-lit kitchen and an atmospheric courtyard. A third view acquired by Highsnobiety depicts a white-walled room that connects directly to the aforementioned, window-paneled courtyard.  The project images come as West attempts to expand into the world of architecture and urban design following a visit to the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc). West recently unveiled views of the Yeezy Offices in Calabasas, California undertaken with the designer Willo Perron. In the past, West has worked with OMA, Family, John Pawson, and Alex Vervoodt on personal design collaborations, as well. Peraza is a long-time collaborator with West and has worked on the rapper’s DONDA clothing line in the past.  A project timeline or site for the low-cost housing scheme has not been announced, but considering Peraza’s ongoing work with Face Modules, a prefab commercial pod system, it could be that the scheme is designed for mass application. West’s interest in low-cost housing comes along amid languishing urgency surrounding a nation-wide housing crisis. Experts widely agree that a shortage of affordable housing units nationwide is fueling income inequality, economic stagnation, and a growing homelessness epidemic, though little has been done about it. The designers’ efforts mirror those of another celebrity-turned-developer—Elon Musk—who has proposed making bricks from the mud excavated from his tunnel boring activities in Los Angeles, in order to build affordable housing.

Here are the winners of L.A. County’s accessory dwelling unit competition

In recent years, L.A. County’s homeless population has elevated by astronomical levels, climbing over 23 percent in just 2017 alone. As part of the county’s overall Homeless Initiative, last September, the L.A. County Arts Commission launched Part of the Solution: Yes To ADU, a design competition soliciting innovative uses for accessory dwelling units (ADU) in single family lots. The winners were announced late last month. There are up to 1.3 million dwellings in the county that could accept such lots, points out L.A. Country Arts Commission Civic Art Project Manager Iris Anna Regn. Officials hope the competition winners will get designers more involved in policy strategy, and help homeowners visualize how to develop ADUs on their properties. Competition winners were selected anonymously from a pool of 43 professional and student entries. First place went to recent graduates Lilliana Castro, Allen Guillen and Cheuk Nam Yu, who suggested eliminating dwellings’ fences and walls to create more open neighborhoods and better integrate dwellings into the city. Their pre-fabricated constructions, imbedded with green wall panels, solar roofs, and art walls, would be cheaper, easier, and faster to install. Two teams —Anonymous Architects and Esther Ho — tied for second. Anonymous proposed a modular solution built around recycled plastic packaging that could be customized with elements like solar balloons, water tanks, gardens, and even bird houses. Ho proposed another modular solution, called the Barcode House, which could be easily adapted to varied uses, from dorm rooms to small businesses. Two Honorable Mentions went to Bureau Spectacular and Wes Jones Partners. Bureau Spectacular's Backyard Urbanism suggested that ADUs could perform other uses besides housing, like recreation spaces or laundromats. Jones suggested the use of shipping containers, their designs kept simple but elegant to fit into their contexts. The competition-winning proposals, and a handful of others, will be exhibited throughout the county for the next few months, including a panel discussion at Downtown LA's Institute for Contemporary Art on May 24. Already the Arts Commission has shared the visions via events at East LA College and the AC Bilbrew Library. “This is an important new typology that people are being asked to do all time now,” pointed out Regn. “It won’t just provide new housing options, but it could help people stay in their neighborhoods and keep communities together." Of course ADUs will not provide the only solution to L.A.’s homeless and affordable housing crisis. It’s just one of many strategies, added Regn. “Everything needs to be thought about now—supportive housing, mental health, social enterprise, much more— to solve this humanitarian crisis.”

Over Amazon’s threats, Seattle passes tax on big business to fund affordable housing

The Seattle City Council has unanimously passed a scaled-down version of the tax on mega-companies that caused Amazon to suspend its construction in the city earlier this month. It now seems like Amazon was bluffing when it threatened to pull out if the measure went through, as pre-construction work on the 17-story Block 18 tower is reportedly back on. Seattle is weathering an affordability crisis as rents and homelessness rates continue to rise, and a tax on companies grossing $20 million a year or more was proposed as a way of funding new affordable housing. The proposed tax would have originally hit those larger companies (about three percent of businesses in Seattle) with an annual, $500-a-head charge. After deliberations between the Council, Mayor’s office, and the business community, a leaner, $275-per-employee bill that sunsets in five years was eventually passed. The original measure was expected to bring in around $75 to $86 million a year for the city, which would have built approximately 1,700 affordable units over the next five years; as passed, Seattle will reap $45 to $49 million a year, and only build out 591 units over that same period. Still, even these changes haven’t appeared to sit well with Amazon. Although construction will move forward on Block 18, an office tower in downtown Seattle that could hold 7,000 Amazon employees, Amazon issued a sternly-worded statement after the vote threatening to reduce its footprint in the city. With 45,000 employees currently in Seattle, the tech giant would have ended up paying around $12 million a year. “We are disappointed by today’s City Council decision to introduce a tax on jobs,” Drew Herdener, an Amazon vice-president, told The Guardian. “We remain very apprehensive about the future created by the council’s hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here.” Amazon’s statement isn’t just bluster. While the Graphite Design Group–designed Block 18 will rise after all, the company is still debating about whether it will take the 722,000-square-feet of office space it was going to lease in the forthcoming Rainer Square building. As the HQ2 search continues, it remains to be seen whether Seattle’s pushback against Amazon will have an effect on what prospective cities are willing to concede; 40 officials from cities all over the country, including some of those still in the HQ2 running, have signed an open letter throwing their weight behind Seattle in this tax fight.

New York City report urges good design in affordable housing

The New York City Public Design Commission (PDC) has released new guidelines for designing affordable housing, painting quality of life as an integral part of any such development. Quality Affordable Housing in NYC, a case study of affordable housing throughout the city, was released at a roundtable presentation at the Center for Architecture last night. Innovative housing is nothing new in New York, but with Mayor de Blasio’s pledge to build or preserve 300,000 units of affordable housing by 2026, a cohesive plan was needed to standardize the new buildings being designed. Quality Affordable Housing pulls together the best aspects from its seven case studies and presents eight guidelines for building more resilient, contextual low-income developments. According to the findings, infill developments that favor pedestrian circulation and an integration with the existing community fabric should be given preference over cloistered, standalone projects. The massing should visually connect the new building with its surroundings, and materials should complement the project’s neighbors. Circulation, both air and pedestrian-related, should be maximized, and the ground floor condition should be inviting to the rest of the neighborhood. All of these suggestions seem like common sense improvements, but tight budgets, strict deadlines, and site constraints often tamp down ambitious social housing projects. Thankfully, Quality Affordable Housing uses its case studies to put projects that have met these goals on display for reference. The PDC has collected projects large and small, from the 16-unit Prospect Gardens, a pilot infill prototype in Brooklyn designed by RKTB Architects in 2004, to 2015’s massive 911,000-square-foot Hunter’s Point South Commons and Crossing in Queens from Ismael Leyva and SHoP. What connects all seven projects is their integration with the surrounding community, attention to landscaping, and most importantly, that people want to live in them. As presenters at the Center kept coming back to, neighborhood residents were overjoyed to move in, and winning the housing lottery often felt like a dream come true. The full PDC guide and breakdowns of all seven case study projects can be found in full here.

Elon Musk wants to turn the Hyperloop’s “excavated muck” into housing materials

Hot off of a flamethrower fundraising sale for Elon Musk’s side project, the Hyperloop tunnel digging The Boring Company, Musk has announced that the muck, rock, and detritus produced by the company’s tunneling would be turned into usable bricks. The first announcement from Musk came on March 26, when he tweeted that the rock mined from the company’s California test tunnels would be turned into “Lifesize LEGO-like interlocking bricks made from tunneling rock that you can use to create sculptures & buildings.” The bricks would be sold as The Boring Company merchandise and are supposedly rated for California’s seismic loads. Responding to critics on Twitter who were wondering why the tech entrepreneur wasn’t using his vast wealth to address the nationwide housing crisis, Musk followed up on May 7, indicating that those same bricks would now be sold on the cheap for low-cost housing. A Boring Company representative confirmed the plans to Bloomberg, saying that the bricks used for housing would be made from the “excavated muck” of the company’s tunnels. These bricks would also go towards building any future Boring Company offices and could partially replace concrete in The Boring Company’s tunnels. Of course, as Bloomberg points out, Musk’s plan to lower the cost of housing assumes that material costs are driving the price of construction, and not land or labor. Brick is expensive to lay because of the associated time and expertise it takes, not the bricks themselves (and this is before factoring in any type of structural reinforcement). It remains to be seen if The Boring Company can produce enough blocks to actually build any homes, especially as many of the prospective Hyperloop tunnels would be churning out dirt contaminated from years of industrial runoff.

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.

An exclusive look at Studio Libeskind’s first New York City building

Daniel Libeskind has been a New York City resident since his teenage years, but, as has been noted, the acclaimed architect has yet to realize a ground-up project there. That may be about to change, as Studio Libeskind has released renderings of its geometric Sumner Houses Senior Building, set to rise in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. The collaboration between Libeskind and the city is part of the broader Housing New York 2.0’s “Seniors First” program, a commitment to build affordable senior housing on land owned by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). The move was first announced in a January press release where NYCHA, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), and the New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC) jointly announced four new partnerships under its 100% Affordable Housing program, its NextGen Neighborhoods program, and its FHA Vacant Homes program. Libeskind has been tapped to design senior housing on the western “site 2” parcel of the Sumner Houses superblock, a NYCHA-owned plot on the northern edge of the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. The 10-story, 129,928-square-foot apartment building will hold 197 permanently affordable units, along with over 10,000-square feet of ground-level community space for residents along Marcus Garvey Boulevard. “I am extremely grateful and inspired by this opportunity to contribute to the Bed-Stuy community,” said Libeskind in a statement sent to AN. “I believe I can speak for our entire team that our goal is to serve the senior community by creating homes that give a sense of civic pride and create more much needed affordable housing in New York City.” The firm’s design is a definite break from the boxy brick buildings commonly seen in affordable housing throughout the neighborhood. Libeskind has taken a more geometric approach, twisting and cutting away at the typical rectangular form to create an almost crystalline structure. According to Libeskind, the alternating open and solid elements and series of lifts and cuts are meant to create a lively interaction with the street and surrounding area. The building’s mass twists and lifts as it rises, and the double-height, glazed entrance lobby should give expansive views of the surrounding Sumner Houses block. Inside, corridor sightlines have been aligned to look inward on a central public courtyard. Construction on the Sumner Houses Senior Building should be complete in 2020. A comprehensive fact sheet on the building's affordability breakdown can be found here.

Dying Cupertino mall could yield 2,400 housing units under Rafael Viñoly-designed plan

Sometimes you just have to go for broke and hope for the best. At least, that seems to be the route the developers behind a massive Rafael Viñoly Architects-designed project slated for the dying Vallco mall in Cupertino, California have in mind, as they push forward with a new, denser version of their long-stalled Vallco Town Center project. Developer Sand Hill Property Company unveiled a new vision for the 55-acre site yesterday that invokes the recently-passed SB-35 state law, a measure that allows developers to override local opposition and certain environmental controls for projects that meet local zoning code and set aside a specified percentage of their proposed housing units as affordable homes. In the case of Vallco Town Center, Sand Hill Property Company is proposing a total of 2,402 units, with 1,201 of those set aside for extremely low- and low-income residents. The eye-catching project proposes replacing the city’s cratered mall with a sprawling mixed-use town square-style district containing 400,000 square feet of retail and entertainment functions, 1.81 million square feet of offices, as well as the aforementioned housing element. The entire thing, according to new renderings unveiled in tandem with the SB-35 plan, will be capped by a parabolic, publicly-accessible rooftop garden. According to a project website, the community park will feature walking and jogging trails, playing fields, picnic areas, orchards and organic gardens, children’s play zones as well as a “refuge for native species of plants and birds.” A series of public squares will also populate the retail areas, while super-sized entry portals will demarcate the development from adjacent, single-family home areas. Regarding the decision to take the SB-35 path, Reed Moulds, managing director of Sand Hill, told The Mercury News, “It has now gotten to a point where we do not have any confidence that this process can come to a conclusion in a timely manner,” adding, “This housing crisis needs to be resolved in a manner that actually provides near-term solutions, and sites like this have an opportunity to do a lot of good for the housing situation.” Under the latest plan, the Vallco development would help Cupertino surpass a state-mandated affordable housing production goal set of building 1,064 affordable units by 2022, The San Francisco Chronicle reports. The city has so far approved just over 800 affordable units via other projects. The developers have been working with community stakeholders and municipal authorities since 2015 on various versions of a proposed redevelopment plan, with the most recent reboot prior to the latest effort occurring in late-2016. Although the developers are pushing for aggressive expansion and a faster timeline with their latest version of the project, Sand Hill “does not intend for its SB-35 application to upset the ongoing planning process,” according to the project website. Under the new SB-35 regulations, local authorities have between 90 and 180 days to approve compliant projects. That gives the municipality three to six months to hammer out a compromise with Sand Hill, a prospect that is unlikely given the strong anti-housing bias city residents and officials have taken to this and similar projects. An updated construction timeline has not been provided.