Posts tagged with "Affordable Housing":

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HUD report reveals housing affordability crisis unfolding across America

The nationwide affordable housing crisis is nearing a record high: More than 8 million renters in 2015 had "worst case housing needs," according to a report released last week by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Very low-income, unassisted families who pay more than half their monthly income for rent and/or live in severely substandard housing are labeled as worst case needs residents. The Worst Case Housing Needs: 2017 Report to Congress reveals that in 2015, 8.3 million households had worst case needs, a 66 percent spike since 2001 and a number approaching the record high of 8.48 million in 2011.

According to the report, cases “cut across all regions of the county and include all racial and ethnic groups, regardless of whether they live in cities, suburbs, or rural areas.”

Most of the nation’s very low-income renters—those who earn less than 50 percent of Area Median Income—reside in the South (6.7 million), followed by the West (4.5 million). The areas with the highest concentrations of worst case households among very low-income renters, however, were in major urban areas: the New York metropolitan area, the Los Angeles metropolitan area, and the Chicago metropolitan area.

HUD's report revealed that while ongoing economic recovery will help increase incomes for very low-income renters, other factors continue to drive the affordable housing crisis. The report cites severe rent burden—those paying more than 50 percent of their income towards monthly rent—as one of the primary factors. Out of the households with worst case needs in 2015, 98.2% had severe rent burden.

The other main cause includes a scarcity of units with affordable rents. Despite an increase in overall rental units and in median renter’s income over the past two years, monthly rents also increased and the shortage of affordable and available units for this population became more severe. For the poorest renters, rent hikes outpace income increases, according to the report.

Nationwide, only 66 affordable units exist for every 100 extremely low-income renters, and of that, only 38 are available for occupancy.

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Oregon bill would encourage new affordable housing but has preservationists up in arms

A controversial bill under consideration that seeks to impose a 100-day limit on reviews for housing developments containing affordable units is currently up for debate in Oregon.

The far-reaching bill, known as HB 2007, would require cities and counties in the state to not only “review and decide on applications for certain housing developments containing affordable housing units within 100 days,” but would also limit local municipalities’ abilities to preclude these housing developments via future national historic district designations. Furthermore, the bill would also limit municipalities’ abilities to require lower development densities in some zoning areas, declare a housing emergency in the state, allow houses of worship to develop affordable housing on their properties, and prohibit municipalities from prohibiting accessory dwelling units or duplexes on lots zoned for single-family use. The measure, which is endorsed by the Homebuilders Association of Metropolitan Portland and 1000 Friends of Oregon, has been condemned as a handout to real estate and development interests by preservationists. Because the bill would impose limits on the influence of local historic districts, many in the preservation community see the bill as a wide-ranging and existential threat to the state’s historic fabric. The pro-preservation group Restore Oregon contends the bill is based on “false premises” and has offered a set of amendments to the bill, including adding language to the measure to increase incentives aimed at curbing market-rate development, adding disincentives to the bill that would limit the demolition of modestly-priced existing units, and enabling existing homes to be subdivided into as many as four units without prompting commercial zoning regulations as is currently the case in the state. The group also seeks to retain baseline protections for new historic districts. A hearing on the bill will be held June 22nd. See the Restore Oregon site for more details.
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Nonprofit developers propose $32 million mixed-income project for Midtown, Detroit

The transformation of Midtown Detroit symbolizes much of the wider change that is happening in Detroit. For good and for bad, areas of Detroit are quickly being developed, and with each new announcement comes questions of responsibility to the very people that have stuck it out in the economically-depressed city. Unlike much of the development, which is being funded by some of the city’s wealthiest, one recently unveiled project is being led by two nonprofits. This mixed-use mixed-income housing development will be located at the corner of Garfield Street and John R. Street, across from the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center, in the Sugar Hill district. Working with the City of Detroit to realize the project are Develop Detroit and Preservation of Affordable Housing, Inc. (POAH). Both developers are members of the Housing Partnership Network (HPN). Develop Detroit was founded in 2016 in the wake of the city’s municipal bankruptcy. POAH has been behind a handful of mixed-income complexes across the South Side of Chicago. "We’re partnering with this outstanding team because of the city's strong focus on equitable and inclusive development," said POAH Managing Director Real Estate Development Rodger Brown in a press release. "This transformational project is completely aligned with our core mission and we’re confident that in partnership with Mayor Duggan and Develop Detroit, our team can create a project that will further enhance the Sugar Hill Arts District and contribute to the economic growth of the city of Detroit.” Comprised of 84 units and 7,000 square feet of commercial space, the project will cost $32 million. Notably, 25 percent of the units will be designated as affordable housing for residents making between 50 and 80 percent of the area’s median income. Units will include studios, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom layouts. The residential units and the commercial space will also be served by 300 parking spaces and green alleyways. Construction is tentatively expected to begin by September 2018, pending full city approval. Phil Freelon, design director at Perkins + Will is leading the design in partnership with Detroit-based McIntosh Poris Associates. "Our work in Detroit continues to be an exciting and energizing experience for me,” said Freelon in a press release. “I look forward to the Sugar Hill project and expanding our partnership with the city as we work to implement innovative strategies that contribute to Detroit’s resurgence.”
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New 100-percent-affordable apartment complex takes root on remediated land in San Francisco

The Pacific Pointe development, designed by David Baker Architects (DBA) with Interstice Architects as associate and landscape architects, is the first 100-percent-affordable housing development in the new Hunters View area of San Francisco. The development is among the first completed projects in the new 420-acre neighborhood, a former naval shipyard that was—until recently—one of the most polluted sites in the country. After 20 years of remediation work, the enclave at the southern tip of San Francisco is now slated to receive upward of 10,000 new housing units as well as a slew of recreational and commercial programs.

The 60-unit apartment complex—developed by AMCAL Multi-Housing and Young Community Developers—is located near the center of the new environ, at the corner of Friedell Street and La Salle Avenue. The complex is organized as two interlocking L-shaped wings bridged by a two-level courtyard. The building features units ranging from one- to three-bedrooms supplemented by ground-level assembly and amenity spaces.

The five-story complex is punctuated along Friedell Street by a perforated Cor-ten steel panel–clad circulation tower that connects to a monumental stairway running through the principal courtyard. That stairway jogs across the elevated portion of the courtyard and eventually empties out onto a generous seating area with custom benches and native plantings. That elevated portion conceals play areas, building programming, and parking below, while stretching deep into the site where it is overlooked from multiple vantages by single-loaded corridors leading to unit entrances. The courtyards are articulated by generous planters framed by Cor-ten steel panels that are interrupted by jagged, stepped benches and wood platforms. Andrew Dunbar, principal at Interstice Architects said, “A fresh-air entry court is located at the lower level; above the parking, we were able to create a park-like courtyard that creates an intimate interconnecting ‘front yard’ for all the inhabitants.” The seating areas contain an unusual element: Raw 10-foot-long logs are embedded directly into the seating and stage areas. “We liked the surrealist effect of the logs as floating elements in the sea of wooden water—they speak to driftwood and offer imaginative play opportunities that recall the logging industry that once used the bay,” Dunbar explained.

The remainder of the complex is organized as a series of simple apartment blocks with several alternating sections of massing projecting beyond the main bulk of the complex. These overhanging areas create coverings for doorway stoops in certain areas and provide simple shade over windows in others. Along the stoops, the scale of the building breaks down to include more raised Cor-ten steel panel planters, modestly planted green areas, and broad stair landings designed for children to play on.

In most areas, the units are studded with flush-mounted floor-to-ceiling casement windows articulated to look double-hung. Window assemblies containing large picture windows are wrapped by planar shading devices that demarcate certain aspects of the program—namely the living areas. As is customary in much of DBA’s recent work, these shared ground-floor areas are detailed with smooth, cast-in-place concrete. The articulated portions of the building containing housing programs are variously clad in smooth, painted stucco, or horizontal siding.

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San Francisco modernizes its affordable housing lottery process

While we may live in Dickensian times, San Francisco has taken a small but important step toward humanizing the process by which qualifying individuals and families can apply to be considered for the city’s affordable housing lottery. Previously, San Francisco’s Office of Housing required would-be affordable housing dwellers to fill out hefty applications and apply in person at each specific housing development, only to watch on as numbered strips of paper were randomly picked out from a big box. The order in which numbers were selected would dictate the line of potential housing recipients. The process was cumbersome to say the least. The San Francisco Examiner reports that at a recent lottery for 60 available units in the Dalt Hotel in the city’s Tenderloin district drew 615 numbers out of several thousand applications submitted.   The carnivalesque and inhumane spectacle—San Francisco’s median rent recently fell slightly, but remains sky-high at a stunning $3,370 per month—is being replaced by the new Database of Affordable Housing Listings, Information, and Applications (DAHLIA) system. The new method was developed with help from Google and Salesforce and consists of an online portal that allows would-be residents to apply not only to multiple housing listings but also allows applicants to find out whether they have been selected via phone or computer. Barry Roeder, an official with the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing, told the Examiner, “the big bin has gone away. No more carnival tickets and things like that. You can, in ten minutes, apply from your smartphone to a listing that you want. It pops up and tells you what your lottery number is and sends you an email with it. Within minutes of the completion of a public lottery, enter that number in DAHLIA again and it shows you exactly what your rank was in the lottery.” The new system is currently operational for all below-market rate listings generated by private developers as part of the city’s inclusionary zoning laws. Applications for affordable units developed by non-profit housing developers should become available within the next month.
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Marijuana reparations: A vehicle for housing reform in California?

If it seems like legalized recreational marijuana’s potential to instigate positive social change at the urban scale is little more than a pipe dream, think again. Several states and municipalities are already experimenting with innovative uses for legal marijuana revenues that hint at a possible urban dimension to the notion of so-called “marijuana reparations,” but these efforts do not go far enough. One approach comes from the state of Colorado, where lawmakers are working to change state law to allow municipalities to spend tax revenues raised via recreational marijuana sales to build new units of affordable housing for individuals experiencing homelessness. Officials there see a recent rise in homelessness as being related to the legal marijuana trade and are looking to utilize revenues from booming marijuana sales to fund re-housing and recovery efforts. The plan, if enacted, would seek to redirect $12.3 million in revenue—legal weed sales brought in $199 million in tax revenue in 2016—to build roughly 1,500 affordable housing units over the next five years. Oakland, California, on the other hand, is aiming to increase access to marijuana sales licenses via its equity permit program. That program aims to streamline the process by which formerly-incarcerated individuals who were jailed for marijuana-related crimes can apply for licenses to sell recreational marijuana. City Lab reports that by Oakland’s official estimates, African Americans made up 77 percent of marijuana-related arrests in the city during 2015. With such skewed figures, whites made up only seven percent of arrests for marijuana-related crimes that year while Latinos made up 15% of arrestees. The city is banking that by earmarking legal marijuana permits for formerly incarcerated individuals, some of those who suffered the most under the war on drugs will be some of the first to benefit from changing laws. These types of changes are a positive first step, but they do not go far enough in addressing the inequality engendered by the discriminatory racial paradigm that launched the war on drugs in the first place. Simply put, state and local municipalities have a moral, social, and financial obligation to rectify the impacts of the decades-long war on drugs that has unnecessarily criminalized African American and Latino communities across the country. The majority of people in prison are currently incarcerated at the state level, often due to local policing efforts. In the United States, the effects of racism on housing discrimination and incarceration rates are ongoing and well-documented. The intimately-related nature of post-World War II redlining practices, coupled with the facilitation of concentrated urban poverty by the interstate highway system, are directly responsible for the ease with which hostile policing and drug enforcement practices have been able to tear into communities of color left behind by suburbanization. Recent episodes of police brutality against people of color—and African Americans, in particular—point directly to the historical legacies that racist land use and policing policies have left on many communities to this very day. The historical legacy of these initiatives has also set up the parameters through which contemporary gentrification has been allowed to take hold in American cities. States and local municipalities are on the hook for limiting housing production over the last several decades. States like California have done an abysmal job facilitating housing production for years, a phenomenon that has created the rampant unaffordability crisis that is choking working class populations—the same groups suffering under draconian criminal policies—in major cities and small towns alike. Given these connections, it’s clear to see that the time to lay the groundwork for bold action is now; municipalities can no longer treat unaffordability and mass-incarceration as separate issues to be addressed piecemeal because they are a product of the same system of oppression. Here’s an idea for a holistic approach: What if states were to combine social justice–minded marijuana reparations efforts with housing market reform, as well? First, states like California should expand Oakland’s equity permit program to as many municipalities as possible, enabling at least the sales of legalized marijuana to economically benefit marginalized communities. The state should then administer revenues generated from recreational marijuana sales to directly incentivize the development of affordable and market rate housing within a certain proximity—say, one-quarter of a mile—of recreational and medical marijuana dispensaries or production facilities. This effort, if coupled with thoughtful increases in density around these facilities, would double- and triple-up the positive effects of the marijuana trade on marginalized communities by ensuring that new jobs and new housing are brought directly to communities besieged by the drug war. With this proximity-based approach, both urban areas and the rural communities across the state now responsible for growing and processing many cannabis products can benefit, as well. The state should also facilitate the development of community-based banks—again, located near dispensaries—tasked with providing private financing to individuals, families, business, and housing developers aiming to develop workforce housing within these communities. Formerly incarcerated individuals and their families should be given priority access to these funds, as well, an element could begin to facilitating paths to self-directed home ownership while also embedding more equitable access to financing within these communities. The potential impact of these policies could be high. In California, for example, recent legalization included levying a 15 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana sales as well as a wholesale tax of $9.25 and $2.75 per ounce on marijuana flowers and leaves, respectively. Recreational and medical marijuana sales are expected to reach $6.46 billion per year by 2020, potentially generating roughly $1 billion in tax revenues for the state. A rough calculation of the figures given earlier for Colorado’s affordable housing program indicates that state is aiming to spend roughly seven percent of marijuana revenue on supportive housing. Scaled to California’s marijuana economy, that would translate to roughly $70 million for housing reform. That’s a good start and, of course, the seven percent percent figure could go much higher. Additional funding could potentially be leveraged against funding from federal agencies for a larger effect, also. Either way, $70 million would certainly go far in communities that have seen economic disinvestment and marginalization for decades. Given the monumental shifts in marijuana policy and public opinion and the potential the booming industry has to generate vast amounts of wealth, it is essential that the spoils of legalized marijuana trade not only go to those who have access to capital and privilege necessary to start a marijuana-related business. It is also essential, given the ongoing housing crisis—and that phenomenon’s ties to other aspects of institutionalized racial inequality—that municipalities move to make housing reform a central component of any marijuana reparations program. These funds should be harnessed directly toward increasing business opportunities for individuals caught up by the war on drugs and be put toward the equitable redevelopment of the very communities torn apart by those policies.
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Historic abandoned Sears complex transformed into affordable housing

Sears and Roebuck Company may no longer be the giant it once was, yet its physical presence is still all over the city of Chicago. As the company had no brick and mortar retail stores until nearly 30 years after its founding in 1886 as a mail-order catalog, many of its earliest buildings were for logistics and storage. One of those old structures is its large original headquarters and catalog printing facility. Abandoned for 40 years, the epic building has now been converted into 181 affordable housing units. Located in the North Lawndale neighborhood on the city’s West Side, the complete renovation was lead by Solomon Cordwell Buenz Architects, James McHugh Construction Co., and Denco, for client Mercy Housing Lakefront. The six-story brick complex will house upwards of 300 residents in 79 one-bedroom units, 52 two-bedroom units, 40 three-bedroom units, and 10 four-bedroom units. Other amenities include a community room, laundry facilities, a computer center, and an exercise facility. The redeveloped complex will now be known as the Lofts on Arthington. Limestone and terracotta details throughout, as well as many of the other original details, were restored in the process of converting the campus. Nearly the entire roof and over 100,000 square feet of flooring had to be completely replaced. Much of the structure had to be updated as well, along with filling in underground tunnels once used by Sears to move across the complex. In recent years, Sears has continued its decline, with an announcement from the company’s leadership expressing “substantial doubt” about its future. Famously, the company’s namesake supertall tower was renamed the Willis Tower in 2014, though most Chicagoans still refer to it as the Sears Tower. The Old Chicago Main Post Office, which was once the largest post office in the world thanks to Sears’s mail-order business, was vacated in 1997. Now with many of Sears’s old buildings being refurbished, and the Old Main Post Office being completely renovated, some of Chicago’s largest structures, from the golden age of mail-order merchandising, are getting a second chance at life.
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China plans to build two million affordable housing units in 2017

China is aiming to build two million affordable housing units this year in an effort to increase access to housing across the country, senior officials from that country report. According to Reuters, Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MOHURD) vice minister Lu Kehua explained that access to affordable housing was becoming a top priority for the government, as housing affordability across China’s largest cities has plummeted in recent years. Many parts of the country are currently experiencing a property boom that has left China’s low-income residents—especially migrant workers who have moved to China’s bustling cities from the countryside—out in the cold. The new units will be developed with an eye toward housing such populations, Lu explained. Official Chinese state publication Xinhua reports that the government has boosted investments and financing in public housing production in recent months to begin the process. Confusingly, the so-called property bubble in major cities comes as many of China’s smaller cities suffer from housing overproduction, resulting in “ghost cities.” China’s unequal, helter-skelter housing growth is straining city residents and has the potential to end badly, economically speaking, as builders take on more and more debt to build housing where it is neither needed nor in high demand. Of course, the low-skilled workers most dependent on the booming building industry there are due to suffer most in the event of economic collapse. Though two million new units is an impressive feat, the new affordable housing efforts are relatively paltry, considering China’s population currently stands at roughly 1.357 billion inhabitants, with roughly 70 million people living in poverty there. Overall, China provides affordable housing for roughly 11.3 million families. By comparison, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, administers roughly 4.8 million affordable units, according to a recent report. By one measure, China’s forthcoming affordable units, if developed proportionally in the United States, would result in over 466,000 new units. That number, coincidentally, is close to the number of new units needed to begin to address California’s housing crisis
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“Affordable New York Housing Program” revives affordable housing tax breaks for developers

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has secured the State Legislature's approval of the “Affordable New York Housing Program," essentially an update of the "421-a" initiative which had been in place for 50 years and encouraged city developers to build more affordable homes incentivized through tax breaks. As part of the “Affordable New York Housing Program," developers in charge of residential projects that have 300 or more units will be eligible for a full property tax break lasting 35 years. The tax abatement, however, will only apply to developments in specific areas of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. Further checkboxes for developers wanting in on the action regard worker pay and the number of affordable units. Under the scheme, projects will only be eligible if they pay construction workers a newly imposed minimum wage (specific to the profession) and allocate 25 to 30 percent of the development as affordable rental units. Subsequently, construction workers on sites below 96th Street in Manhattan must earn $60 an hour, on average, through benefits, wages, and payroll taxes. For those working within a mile radius of the East River waterfront, that sum comes down to $45 per hour. To ensure developers are being true to their word, the New York Times reports that the city comptroller will act as a watchdog. Efforts, though, may be hampered by the fact that wages splayed out across the construction site range significantly. Specialized jobs such as cement pourers, crane operators, and plumbers are very well-payed whereas standard laborers are not.

Developments outside the specified zones have the chance to "opt in" to the scheme so long as the aforementioned prerequisites are met. Governor Cuomo, in a press release on the budget, estimated that the Affordable New York Housing Program will create roughly 2,500 new units of affordable housing each year. The scheme will end in 2022 at the earliest.

As per The Times, New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio had lambasted the old 421-a as “a giveaway to developers.” His administration estimates Cuomo's plan will cost $82 million a year more in unrealized taxes than it would have under the previous year's proposal. The Times also reported that the 421-a tax breaks cost the city about $1.4 billion a year.
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Denied access to Trump Tower public space, protestors still hold affordable housing teach-in

This morning, some fifty people gathered outside Trump Tower's fifth-floor public terrace to protest proposals from New York Governor Cuomo and President Trump that would affect affordable and public housing in New York. The event was organized by Alliance for Tenant Power and Real Rent Reform, two grassroots coalition groups that draw support from a range of New York City tenant organizations, labor unions, not-for-profits, and advocacy groups. The teach-in started at 11:30 a.m. as protestors arrived just outside the terrace entrance, located on the top floor of the Tower's large central atrium. Prior to the election, Trump Tower's two tucked-away public terraces seemed to exemplify the slight-of-hand developers can use to leverage extra development rights without meaningfully giving back to the public. Recently, they've become a venue for protestors to gather at the heart of President Trump's most prominent development. This time, however, the fifth-floor terrace was closed due to reported icy conditions. To this reporter's eyes, it was a plainly flimsy excuse. (The four-floor terrace is still closed due to construction, according to a sign outside its entrance.) Civil rights attorney Samuel B. Cohen was on hand to speak to Trump Tower staff and inquire about the space's closure. Just like a sidewalk or any other public space, he told the crowd, Trump Tower has an obligation to clear the space for public use. Regardless, the teach-in continued, as the NYPD did not express safety concerns about the crowd. Over the course of approximately 45 minutes, protestors spoke out against Governor Cuomo's proposed renewal of the 421-a tax break, which is designed to spur the development of multi-unit buildings on vacant land. Tom Waters, housing policy analyst from the Community Service Society, said 421-a was a product of the 1970s, an era when the city was in dire straits. "Those times are over," he said, adding that 421-a would create far more value for developers than for the public. Waters also spoke out against a new provision in the bill that extends 100 percent tax-exempt status for certain new affordable developments from 25 to 35 years, a move which could generate further profits for developers.  Waters also explained that Trump Tower itself was a product of 421-a tax exemptions when it was built; according to The New York Times the project received "an extraordinary 40-year tax break that has cost New York City $360 million to date in forgiven, or uncollected, taxes, with four years still to run, on a property that cost only $120 million to build in 1980." After being initially denied 421-a exemptions for Trump Tower, Trump successfully sued the city, and he later won 421-a exemptions for his Trump World Tower under the Guiliani and Bloomberg administrations in a similar fashion. Massive cuts to federal housing programs were an equal source of ire: According to a press release issued by Alliance for Tenant Power and Real Rent Reform, President Trump's proposed budget reduces federal housing funds by 13 percent. Those cuts "are expected to strain public housing programs and axe $75 million in federal funding from the New York City Housing Authority, the agency that manages public housing in NYC," the groups said. The Community Service Society estimates that Governor Cuomo's proposed 421-a program would "cost NYC taxpayers $2.4 billion annually and yield minimal affordable housing units in return." In the face of federal cuts, Jawanza Williams of VOCAL NY urged New York State to take a more aggressive stance to fill in the gaps and create its own robust health care and public housing systems; he also argued that 421-a would "only exacerbate gentrification." Claudia Perez of advocacy group Community Voices Heard added her thoughts in a question to those assembled: "Will you help me fight against the developer-in-chief? Now more than ever, New York must protect NYCHA." "We're calling on Cuomo to realize these $2 billion in cuts are more Trumponian than Trump," said New York City Councilmember Jumaane Williams at the protest. "So if [Cuomo] wants to run for president, if he wants to be a champion of saying what New York City is going to do to push back against these Trumponian cuts, 421-a is not it."
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Governor Cuomo unveils Central Brooklyn revitalization plan that’s big on ideas

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has unveiled a sweeping plan to revitalize Central Brooklyn, the latest in a spate of ambitious, big-budget projects he has proposed for the state's airports, trains, bridges—and election year 2020, possibly. The $1.4 billion initiative positions itself as a "national paradigm" for addressing health, violence, and poverty in low-income communities. Called Vital Brooklyn, the proposal will target Brownsville, East New York, Flatbush, Crown Heights, and Bedford-Stuyvesant, communities where residents face persistent barriers to health, education, and employment equity as well as the rising threat of gentrification. Targeting eight investment areas, Vital Brooklyn aims to augment the supply of affordable housing; build resilience infrastructure; invest in community-based violence prevention, job creation, and youth employment; tackle open space and healthy food availability; and improve healthcare access with an emphasis on preventative care.
“For too long investment in underserved communities has lacked the strategy necessary to end systemic social and economic disparity, but in Central Brooklyn those failed approaches stop today,” said Governor Cuomo, in a prepared statement. “We are going to employ a new holistic plan that will bring health and wellness to one of the most disadvantaged parts of the state. Every New Yorker deserves to live in a safe neighborhood with access to jobs, healthcare, affordable housing, green spaces, and healthy food but you can't address one of these without addressing them all. Today, we begin to create a brighter future for Brooklyn, and make New York a model for development of high need communities across the country.” The lion's share of the plan—$700 million in capital investments—will go towards healthcare, followed by $563 million for affordable housing. The remaining money is split between Vital Brooklyn's six other initiatives, with food access getting the smallest portion of the funding. So far, Cuomo's plan is heavy on ideas but short on specifics. The healthcare component calls for more community health care facilities to fulfill current demand and provide additional preventative and mental health care services. To achieve this, a 36-location ambulatory care network will partner with existing providers, and to complement the health focus, the state will spend $140 million to ensure that all residents live within a ten-minute walk of parks and athletic facilities, and revamp existing facilities through grants. Vital Brooklyn also calls for building five-plus acres of recreation space at state-funded housing developments. Mindful that health outcomes and housing are linked, the governor confronts Brooklyn's affordable housing shortage with plans to build, build, build. With more than half of Central Brooklyn residents spending more than half of their income on rent, Cuomo's plan calls for the construction of more than 3,000 new multifamily units at six state-owned sites, with options for supportive housing, public green space, and a home-ownership plan. On the resiliency front, the state's projects aim to meet growing demand for electricity while shoring up the low-lying area's resistance to extreme weather. Under the plan, there could be 62 multi-family and 87 single-family energy efficiency initiative, plus almost 400 solar other projects in the pipeline. The initiative also calls for equipping Kings County Hospital, SUNY Downstate Medical Center and Kingsboro Psychiatric Center with backup power through the Clarkson Avenue microgrid project. Linked to the resiliency, Vital Brooklyn features a partnership between the Billion Oyster Project and the State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Environmental Justice program to expose area youth to habitat restoration practices on Jamaica Bay by adding 30 environmental education sites to the area. Through these sites, the Billion Oyster Project aims to reach 9,500 students who will learn about the benefits of oysters through the bay and SCAPE's Living Breakwaters Project on Staten Island. Not everyone is bullish on the plan, though. New York City Mayor (and Cuomo rival) Bill de Blasio, for one, is skeptical about the governor's follow-thorough. "Show us the money, show us the beef, whatever phrase you want," de Blasio said on WNYC las week. "I don't care what a politician does to get attention. What I care about is actual product." The state legislature has until April 1 to decide on the governor's budget, and negotiations may change the plan's final funding and form.
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A new report shows how sky-high housing costs fuel displacement in the tristate area

The Regional Plan Association has released a new study on housing affordability and its notoriously difficult-to-measure twin, displacement. Although displacement is often reported as individual battles over affordable housing or new development in neighborhoods like East New York and East Harlem, Pushed Out: Housing Displacement in an Unaffordable Region (PDF) illustrates the widespread impact of displacement in the tristate area, from Northern New Jersey up to New Haven, Connecticut. Despite good intentions, urban planning often reflects the priorities of four decades ago, when cities confronted deficits, white flight, deindustrialization, and the collateral damage of urban renewal. Now, data shows that throughout New York metropolitan area, wealthier (and whiter) people are replacing people of color in dense, central city neighborhoods with good transit access. There are, the RPA estimates, 990,000 people in the region who are at-risk of displacement; more than two-thirds of this group are Black or Latino. To ease the rising cost of housing and keep low-income residents in place, Pushed Out proposes policies like deeper rental subsidies, broader affordability ranges, centering displacement risk into land-use, and more legal protections for tenants, especially around eviction prevention and in areas outside of New York City where rent protections are weak or non-existent. This most recent report, which includes interviews with those affected directly by displacement, will be part of the RPA's fourth regional plan, due out later this year. In conjunction with the release, RPA held a morning forum at the Ford Foundation where two panels of community leaders and city officials from the region gathered with an audience of their peers and neighbors to discuss strategies for resisting displacement and advocating for longtime residents in the face of change. Maria Torres-Springer, the new head of NYC Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), joined Dina Levy, deputy director of community impact and innovation in Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office; and Jersey City Deputy Mayor Marcos Vigil for a panel discussion on what municipalities can do to combat displacement (NY1's Errol Louis moderated). HPD, Torres-Springer noted, is beginning to experiment with community land trusts, while Vigil said Jersey City, in response to an influx of 50,000 new residents, offers incentives to developers who build housing outside of transit-rich, wealthy neighborhoods. The solutions are meant in part to address an acute displacement trend: RPA's report found that desirable, central city neighborhoods have seen a two percent decrease in households earning less than $100,000 annually, while these same areas have accommodated 11 percent more households earning $100,000 annually. The group mused on the difficulty of providing truly affordable housing when, for example, federal agencies set standards of affordability that may not align with local needs. "There's a legal definition of affordability," said Vigil, "but really it means a good, safe place to live." Panelists were on the lookout for instances in which public policy accelerates displacement, but given their institutional roles and the short timeframe, discussion trended towards optimism and broad tactics. Barika Williams, deputy director of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, moderated a second panel on how displacement risk is experienced on the ground. Executive Director of Community Voices Heard Afua Atta-Mensah; NYU Furman Center Director Ingrid Gould Ellen; Raymond Ocasio, executive director of La Casa de Don Pedro; and New York City Council Member Antonio Reynoso spoke about how the rising cost of housing is putting pressure on the (mostly) low-income communities of color they advocate for and represent. Reynoso, whose district includes parts of Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Ridgewood, spoke passionately about housing pressures facing his constituents: "Law, policy, and safeguards are being outpaced by development," he said. "Do we have the resources and will to sustain the preservation of affordable housing and build more housing to combat the erosion?" As poorer residents are pushed to the city limits and the suburbs, panelists agreed that planning needs to extend beyond town lines. "It's better,"Atta-Mensah said, "to get in at the front end and talk about this regionally."