Posts tagged with "Affordable Housing":

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New York City pilots basement housing program to expand affordability

For the past two years, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (DHP), the Department of Buildings, the Fire Department, and the Department of City Planning have been working with city council members to legalize more basement apartment rental units, and this June the city took a major step forward. According to City Hall, “The City is using innovative strategies to unlock more affordable housing at every level – including the basement.” Currently, thousands of people are occupying basement and cellar apartments deemed not fit for habitation. According to Council Member Rafael Espinal, “In East New York, I can comfortably estimate that over 75 percent of the basements are being rented illegally.” Also, they haven't been properly registered with the Department of Finance. Following an initial feasibility study, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Members Brad Lander, Rafael Espinal, and Inez Barron proposed legislation this summer to establish a three-year pilot program to facilitate the creation and renovation of apartments in the basements and cellars of certain one- and two-family homes in Brooklyn Community District 5. This demonstration program intends to provide clearer guidelines for landlords looking to make qualifying basements legally habitable. The de Blasio administration has invested $11.7 million in the new program. According to a City Hall press release, “This innovative program will provide safe and legal housing options to more New Yorkers.” Modifications of existing construction codes are designed to improve health and safety standards for occupants while reducing the overall cost of conversions. Barron said, “This bill will enable landlords to make necessary structural adjustments to their basements so that these potential living spaces can be legalized and legitimized.” The DHP is seeking a qualified community-based organization (CBO) to administer the program. The DHP will fund the CBO to assist landlords with completing low-interest loan applications and selecting approved contractors to complete the work. To qualify as a landlord, a homeowner must have an income at or below 165 percent of area median income and occupy the one- or two-family home as their primary residence. If the pilot program succeeds it will potentially expand to all five boroughs.
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NYCHA orgy rounds out disastrous summer for the public housing agency

New York City papers reported this week that employees for the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) have been having regular orgies in a Bronx public housing complex. The bombshell is a bizarre cap on a summer of horrible news for the agency. New York Daily News reported on Monday that at least two supervisors were pressuring staff at Throggs Neck Houses to participate in alcohol-fueled sex parties in the property's offices. The parties happened on multiple occasions, and staff even counted time at the events as overtime so that they would be paid for participating. The entire Throggs Neck staff has since been reassigned to other properties, but no one has been fired. The greatest penalties have apparently fallen on two ringleaders who were suspended without pay for 30 days while the organization conducts an investigation. One of those people, Brianne Pawson, was the supervisor of grounds at the property and is the daughter of Charles Pawson, NYCHA director, the Daily News reported. Outrage from residents and city council members over the scandal and subsequent lack of disciplinary action only add to the heat NYCHA has felt this summer, as dangerous flaws in its operation have been exposed. Residents in East Harlem have reported that they frequently don't have running water; playgrounds have collapsed while children played on them; drinking water tanks have contained dead animals and human excrement; hundreds of children have suffered lead poisoning after living in apartments with toxic paint. And that's just this year. Reports have uncovered a litany of other complaints and failures, all apparently stemming from gross mismanagement and underinvestment by the authority. Vito Mustaciuolo was named general manager for the organization this summer on the heels of Shola Olatoye's departure from her position as chair of the authority. Earlier this year Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, declared a state of emergency for the organization after several properties lost heat during the winter, and a recent lawsuit targets Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City, for his responsibility in a lead poisoning scandal. NYCHA is the country's largest housing authority and shelters over 400,000 New Yorkers. Its leader is appointed by the city's mayor, but it operates as an independent corporation. This year Congress approved an increase in federal funding for the authority after the Trump administration initially proposed cutting support.
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Salt Lake City mayor boosts affordable housing with two new initiatives

The mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah, recently announced two new initiatives to bolster affordable housing in the city, according to an article in The Salt Lake Tribune. Mayor Jackie Biskupski said that the city will be introducing fee waivers for projects including at least 20 percent affordable housing and that the city is developing new rules that would require affordable housing be replaced when it is redeveloped or demolished. According to a 2018 study cited by the Tribune, housing costs in Utah are rising much faster than wages, and one-eighth of the state's households are spending 50 percent or more of their income on housing. Biskupski, who was elected in 2015, has focused on housing access and renewable energy throughout her tenure. In 2016 she called homelessness a "humanitarian crisis" while announcing four new shelters in the city,  and along with other mayors across the country she has committed to pursuing the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement from which the national government withdrew last year. While cities like New York and San Francisco very visibly struggle with affordable housing and dramatic income inequality, smaller cities and towns across the country are facing their own forms of housing crises, albeit on smaller scales. A 2017 study by the Urban Institute found that every county in the country lacked enough housing for extremely-low income households.

London Affordable Housing Challenge

London is home to some of the most expensive properties in the world, making access to affordable housing almost impossible to all but the very rich. According to a report by UBS Wealth Management, London homes are the second most over-priced in the world, and closely behind Vancouver in its “bubble risk rating”. London house prices increased by 25% from 2014-2016, mainly due to foreign investment and low interest rates, making it the second-least affordable housing bubble in the world after Hong Kong. For the London Affordable Housing Challenge, participants are asked to design a pilot-phase concept for affordable housing within Britain’s capital city. In order to be successful, designs need to be easily rolled out to increase the capacity of housing stock, while at the same time with minimal use of land and resources. Successful designs will be flexible enough to be adapted to any location across the city, and accommodate different inhabitant capacity requirements. No minimum size or amount of residential units per block is defined. As there is no one specified location for this challenge, participants are free to create designs in a London location of their choice, as long as it fits in with the brief of supplying affordable housing to residents. This architecture competition requires for both prudent planning and out of the box thinking. Winning participants will need to apply unique strategies as well as creative designs to tackle the housing crisis, while at the same time remaining in keeping with the city’s situation and heritage. COMPETITION PROGRAMME: Design a pilot-phase concept for affordable housing within London, which can be easily rolled out to increase capacity of housing stock, and is minimal in its use of land and materials. No minimum size or amount of residential units per block is defined. The proposals should be flexible enough to adopt to different sizes for various inhabitant capacity requirements. Designs for the London Affordable Housing Challenge should be able to adapt to various locations across the city. The designs should also be adaptable, allowing adjustments to be made in order to suit different residential capacity requirements. PRIZES: 3 winning proposals 2 special awards and 6 honourable mentions will be selected. Bee Breeders will award a total of US $6,000 in prize money to competition winners as follows: 1st Prize - US $3,000 2nd Prize - US $1,500 3rd Prize - US $500 + 6 honourable mentions BB Student Award - US $500 BB Green Award - US $500 COMPETITION SCHEDULE: Early Bird Registration: APRIL 30 - JUNE 5 Advance Registration: JUNE 6 - JULY 17 Last Minute Registration: JULY 18 - OCTOBER 9 Closing date for registration: OCTOBER 9, 2018 Closing date for submission: NOVEMBER 5, 2018 (11:59pm GMT) Announcement of the winners: NOVEMBER 28, 2018 More information - LONDONHOUSING.beebreeders.com
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Judge clears way for controversial Brooklyn development at Broadway Triangle

Last Friday in New York City, a lawsuit against one of North Brooklyn’s most contentious, high-profile developments was dismissed after a six-month delay in court. The lawsuit, filed by the Churches United for Fair Housing (CUFFH) and local groups in February, claimed the Broadway Triangle project would discriminate against people of color and further segregate the predominantly black and Latino community from the rest of Brooklyn. Currently a vacant piece of land situated at the corner of Union and Flushing Avenues, the contested site is slated to become a massive eight-building, mixed-use complex. It was formerly owned by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. In their complaint, the plaintiffs said the development violates the federal Fair Housing Act and asked the city to stop the rezoning of the site. They also urged the city to consider requiring racial impact studies when rezoning areas in low-income communities throughout New York. Alexandra Fennell, network director at Churches United, told The Architect’s Newspaper that such a study could easily be incorporated into the Environmental Review process when properties are up for development. “The land use process provides opportunities for tangible remedies for issues that are present,” she said. “If the city refuses to even study segregation in our neighborhoods then we are almost certain to perpetuate it.” The plaintiffs also noted that the Pfizer site’s current developer, Rabsky Group, has a longstanding history of building luxury homes and apartments exclusively for larger Hasidic families with three- and four-bedroom options. They argued these sizes don't make sense for smaller black and Latino families who might be interested in applying for the 287 affordable housing units being offered at the Pfizer Project.  The planned 1,146-apartment complex will include those subsidized units, 65,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, and green space, designed in conjunction with the NYC Department of Planning and Manhattan-based firm Magnusson Architecture and Planning (MAP). According to the architects, the new design will aim to improve the local pedestrian experience on the southwest corner of the 31-acre Broadway Triangle, boost economic activity in the area, and beautify the surrounding neighborhoods of South Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Bedford-Stuyvesant.  Magnus Magnusson, the firm's principal, said since the first goal of the project was to receive the zoning change, the initial drawings specifically show the urban design approach taken to the site. You can’t tell from the images, he said, but going east the scale of the buildings get lower to match the surrounding neighborhood. The tallest structures on Union Avenue—a busy, car-ridden street—feature up to 18 stories. “Another big urban design feature we added was a large, public open space in the middle of the complex,” Magnusson said. “The neighborhood today lacks green space and we wanted to make it a place for the entire community to come together.” Magnusson also noted that there hasn’t been any talk of a luxury development by Rabsky so far. “There are seven apartment buildings ranging in various sizes, so each one could be for a different use and feature either affordable housing versus market rate,” he said. “The attraction here for us was the fact that for decades, this was an empty property. To build a new mixed community is really what New York is all about in trying to do to make the city more inclusive. Even though the opposition wanted more, this will probably be the best compromise." Broadway Triangle has been a public topic of controversy for nearly a decade. The city voted to rezone the area, which it owns, in 2009 to make way for new development and affordable housing options, but a federal judge blocked such actions three years later, citing that it would be detrimental to the local minority populations. After the city agreed to find a new developer for the site last year, plans restarted. In March the court put a temporary restraining order on the site, but the ban was lifted with the final ruling last week. “The city needs more housing...a lot more,” Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron wrote in his ruling. “The Pfizer Project has already passed political process muster; today it passes judicial process muster. This court finds no legal impediment to it and will not stand in its way one more day.” Judge Engoron also stated that the city has no obligation to carry out a racial impact study when it considers rezoning properties and noted that concerns of gentrification and displacement speak to broad social trends rather than the hidden agenda of developers. For the past month, Churches United has hosted the “Take Back Bushwick” campaign, a series of 17 “actions” or events calling out future local market rate developments that are driving up rents, displacing residents in Brooklyn, and have zero affordable housing options. The last and final action, a rally against an incoming 27-story residential building on Wyckoff Avenue, was held this morning. Fennell calls this particular project the “ultimate middle finger building” in Bushwick and a development that “could not be farther from what the community needs.” “Today’s action was not related to Pfizer but it also focuses on the city’s failure to create policies that encourage development of low income housing which we desperately need in favor of luxury development,” she said. “New York is one of the most segregated cities in the country and this type of development is only segregating us further.” Council member Antonio Reynoso, who represents District 34 where the Pfizer Project will be developed, also spoke at the rally and urged the local community to continue getting involved in these discussions. “Bushwick looks a certain way, it has a character,” he said “That’s what makes it so popular and that’s what's being taken away from us. We’re allowing developers and big money to dictate and determine exactly what they want to do in this community, instead of allowing the community to be the sayers of how we want things to be.” This article was updated on August 2nd with comments from Magnusson Architecture and Planning.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.”
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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.