Housing shortages are not just an issue in New York City or even America’s hyper-developed urban centers. It's an issue in every large city in the world. Of course, for the wealthy there are plenty of options. The shortages affect the poor—and in many cities, the middle class. These critical issues and the architect's responsibility to help alleviate this crisis is the focus of "Shelter: On Housing," a panel discussion hosted by the Global Dialogues Committee of the AIANY on Wednesday, October 7th from 6:00 to 8:00pm. At the event, I will be a panelist along with Aliye Celik (president of the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization), Mimi Hoang of nARCHITECTS, and Jill Learner from Kohn Pedersen Fox. I plan to present housing from Vienna and the Austrian process of selecting projects based on their architectural qualities. This free event will take place at the beautiful Vitra showroom, 29 Ninth Avenue in New York.
Posts tagged with "Affordable Housing":
There are big changes planned for Brooklyn's East New York. On Monday, September 21st, the Department of City Planning will unveil the full East New York Community Plan. The plan is part of Housing New York, Mayor de Blasio's ten year plan to stabilize existing affordable housing supply and build 80,000 new units. The plan's goal is to increase public investment and catalyze private development in select East Brooklyn neighborhoods, including Ocean Hill, Cypress Hills, and the eponymous East New York. Compared to other community plans, there's one key difference: the East New York Community Plan will be the first to apply mandatory inclusionary zoning. This designation requires the construction of permanent affordable housing. One of the affordable housing provisions approved by Albany in June 2015, mandatory inclusionary zoning requires developers to set aside at least one quarter of their units for low-income individuals, though there are some exceptions to the rule. It typically takes around one year to vet Community Plan proposals. After the ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, a mandated public comment period), plans must be approved by each of the city's 59 community boards, all five borough presidents, the City Planning Commission, and the City Council.
In 2016, Jersey City’s population is set to exceed Newark’s. With an influx of newcomers, city officials have pioneered a tax incentive plan that encourages new development while actively combating segregation by income. While these goals usually conflict, officials are confident that the program, Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT), will meet the needs of all stakeholders. Introduced in 2013 by newly elected Mayor Steven M. Fulop, the plan spreads affordable and market rate housing evenly throughout the city by tying development incentives to the relative desirability of given neighborhoods. Though there's been no development under PILOT yet, as of now, new developments can qualify for the program. New Jersey property taxes are one of the nation's highest. Like most tax abatements, the objective of PILOT is to encourage economic activity by easing the developer's tax burden to incentivize denser development. The city partnered with researchers at New York University and Columbia to study the city's housing market intensively at the neighborhood level. According to Ryan Jacobs, Jersey City's Director of Communications, Jersey City operates under the philosophy that "any improvement to [the] land is a good idea." Jacobs critiqued the "tale of two cities" dichotomy that prevails in many discussions around balancing affordability and development. In Jersey City, he states that "that choice is a false choice, it's more communal than that. It's not healthy to have one part of the city that is growing and one part that isn't." PILOT divides the city into four tiers, each with a different tax incentive. Tiers 1 and 2, highly developed areas, receive property tax abatements for a shorter amount of time. Tier 1, for example, has a 10 year property tax abatement, and a mandate that 10 percent of newly constructed units be affordable housing. Tier 4, by contrast, has a 15 percent affordable housing mandate and a 30 year property tax abatement. The city wants to attract concentrated investment in Tiers 3 and 4. Consequently, these zones have longer tax abatements. Regardless of their designation, there is a mandate in each tier to build affordable housing. Jersey City adopted HUD's standards of affordable housing to encompass individuals making 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) and below. Tax abatements are tailored to individual neighborhoods. A special target is the revitalization of Journal Square, once the commercial heart of the city, and now a neighborhood in need of reinvestment. Currently, downtown and waterfront districts, like the 1980s New Urbanist Port Liberté, attract new residents who can afford median monthly rents greater than $2,000, while inland neighborhoods garner comparatively less investment. According to the 2010 Census, approximately 19,000 Jersey City units (29 percent) rent for greater than $1,500 per month. Port Liberté, with its canal, bike paths, and dense residential clusters, has a median household income of $100,000, compared to the citywide median of $46,813. The city intends to make the affordable housing application process as transparent as possible. Per state law, developers of market rate housing that receive tax abatements must contribute $1,500 per residential unit to the city's affordable housing fund. The fund has received $15 million dollars since 2003. These proposed developments pictured here serve as examples of projects that could be executed under PILOT. The two images at top are of a waterfront development that received an abatement (though not through PILOT). The complex is 80 percent market rate and 20 percent affordable, and the first mixed income development in that district in 30 years. On Montgomery Street, 116 new affordable units are planned (an additional 10 units will be market rate). The complex is designed by Wallace Roberts and Todd (WRT).
Home builders and developers in Chicago have sued the city to block a tightening of its affordable housing laws, which were recently revamped to encourage more private development of units accessible to low-income residents. Hoyne Development and the Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago say the longstanding Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO) violates the Fifth Amendment because it involves the taking of private property without "just compensation.” Earlier this year Chicago City Council voted to overhaul of the ARO, which compels private developers to build affordable housing or pay "in-lieu" fees. Those fees were too low, many argued, and resulted mostly in developers paying their way out of having to devote a substantial amount of new housing stock to affordable units. But in their suit the developers argue raising the fees could backfire by making $900 million in planned construction suddenly infeasible. The new ARO fees take effect October 13. As Brentin Mock writes for CityLab, the outcome of the case could affect similar proceedings in Los Angeles and New York, where so-called inclusionary-zoning plans are in the works.
The New & Old in New Orleans: Ten years after Katrina, architects still figuring out how to rebuild housing in the city
Ten years after Hurricane Katrina tore through the Gulf Coast region, inundating New Orleans with contaminated floodwaters, the city is in some ways still getting back on its feet. After much dispute on how to recover the city, architects and developers are looking to new construction and existing building stock for solutions. Many homes in the Crescent City were washed away or irreparably damaged. One of the most predominant home styles damaged in the storm was the so-called shotgun house, named as such due to its elongated style organized around a long corridor stretching the length of the house. That typology is has been deployed by numerous groups in the past decade to rebuild New Orleans. Developers and architects have been snagging headlines rebuilding what was lost. Most notably, Brad Pitt's Make It Right Foundation, has built over 100 homes in the city, many by top name architects and more still with modern designs that reinterpret the city's historic shotgun house. Make It Right has lately been building "tiny houses," a style of housing meant for people on a small budget subscribing to a fast-paced, out-of-home lifestyle that's fitting for the urban environment. This fast growing contemporary style has its benefits:
- Storage space is limited, so there is a lower propensity to over consume and due to the size of the plot.
- The building is relatively simple and easy to maintain (a chore no city dweller wants to labor over).
This Fall, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors will consider a proposal made by the city's Planning Department concerning the possibility of "relaxing" height and density limits for many of San Francisco's western neighborhoods. If enacted, the program expects to transform some of San Francisco's uninhabited residences and unused space into affordable housing units for newcomers. The city is exploring a density bonus program, which allows developers to gain building height among other incentives. The proposal, according to the San Francisco Business Times, would allow developers to build two-stories taller than normally allowed. Most parts of San Francisco restrict heights to four or six stories. Other provisions would allow parking minimum waivers and reduced setback and side yard requirements. That's all in exchange for building affordable housing. San Francisco hopes the plan could spur 7,000 new units of housing, 3,000 of those affordable. The proposal has been met with strong opposition from some neighborhood groups, the Business Times reported. Some San Francisco residents – in particular the Sunset and Richmond districts – are reluctant to expose themselves to neighborhood change. Western neighborhoods claim rezoning would render the community vulnerable to conflict, citing dense construction, parking concerns, and impacts on the transportation system. “Building density just for the sake of density isn’t the answer," Planning Department Chief John Rahaim said in a statement earlier this year. "We need to be concerned about quality of life and living space.” He acknowledged, however, that the city is in need of new affordable housing.
New York City Mayor De Blasio and Cardinal Dolan working on plan for affordable housing on church properties
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had some face-to-face time with Cardinal Timothy Dolan this week, and among the topics the duo discussed was affordable housing. In a city of nosebleed-inducing housing prices, Dolan said creating and maintaining affordable housing was "God's work," according to AM New York. The city and the archdiocese are working out a plan to use the church's extensive real estate holdings in the city to provide affordable housing and shelters for the homeless. "We still got some meat and potatoes to work out, but I think it's a go," Dolan was quoted in the newspaper. "And if you ask me, I don't have a choice because Jesus told me to do this. I didn't need the mayor to tell me to do this." Dolan added that he and De Blasio report to the same constituency: "namely God's people, the people of this city." "Amen, beautifully said," the mayor replied.
Heroic Food Farms in rural New York teams up with Ennead to provide micro-housing, mentorship, and jobs to displaced veterans
Shaken by war and existentially disoriented, most veterans struggle to reintegrate and find work. A nonprofit food farm on the outskirts of New York City is being eyeballed as a possible housing and training solution for displaced veterans. The masterplan by Ennead Architects and RAFT Landscape Architecture includes eight micro-housing units for individuals or couples. The homes, equipped with a bedroom, bathroom, and kitchenette, will all be programmatically linked by a community building for living, dining and instruction. The housing units, which are positioned in relationship to one another, rest on piers to “sit lightly on the land” and are interconnected by raised decks. The architects declined to install a living room in order to encourage tenants to use the community building for leisure. Meanwhile, the existing farmhouse, hay loft, and barn will be renovated. "It's about striking a balance between creating privacy for the individual and fostering a sense of community with shared spaces that open out to the view," said Andrew Burdick, director of Ennead Lab, the architecture firm's public interest and pro-bono division. Sited on 19 acres in the hilly Hudson Valley, the shed-like dwellings are designed to meet Passivhaus standards of extremely low energy consumption. The configuration of the buildings – a quadrangle surrounded by residences with linked porches, takes after Thomas Jefferson’s academic village at the University of Virginia. Veterans will receive instruction and mentorship, as well as job placement at nearby farms during harvest peak season. On the Heroic Food Farm site, they will raise livestock and cultivate produce in the greenhouses. Though small in scale, Burdick hopes the food farm can become a prototype to help plug the gap in the U.S. labor market, whereby a simultaneous shortage of agricultural workers and high unemployment among veterans presents a promising opportunity to connect those dots. According to report by the Wall Street Journal, the shortage of farm workers reduces agricultural production by roughly 9.5 percent per year. Statistically, one possible cause is that 30 percent of farmers are over the age of 65, while less than 10 percent are below 35. Screenwriter Leora Barish, founder of Heroic Food Farms, told Architect Magazine: “We know that supportive housing is one of the keys to sustaining programs for returning veterans.” Currently, New York ranks among the top ten states with the highest veteran population and veteran unemployment rate.
One Dutch architect has re-envisioned suburbia and city centers as car-free urban forests in which dwellings are disguised as trees. Raimond de Hullu’s new home designs, known as OAS1S, feature tall, slim, detached townhouses shaped like the numeral "1" as symbols of the “deep human need to become one with nature.” “Imagine living with nothing but green around you. Imagine growing flowers or tomatoes on your facade,” de Hullu told Fast Company. Airy, wooden cabin-like interiors harken to a simple yet uncompromised way of life, each four-story structure completely ensconced in foliage and topped with a green roof. Each floor is connected by stairs encased in a glass hall with a skylight 39 feet above. An influx of sunlight and fresh air filters in through the large windows with loggias (a gallery or room with one or more open sides) and French balconies. Solar panels and other off-the-grid power sources are complemented by on-site water and waste treatment capabilities. “Competitive, middle-class housing for people who demand high-quality and green living,” de Hullu noted. De Hullu’s designs shoot for cradle-to-cradle construction, a zero-waste approach that comes from using recycled materials and repurposing unused scraps. More or less the size of a tree (20x20x40 feet), the “tree-scrapers” would be prefabricated from recycled wood, with organic insulation and triple glazing to keep the houses self-sufficiently snug. “We need a new building typology that goes beyond the usual technical sustainability. We need a 100 percent green concept, not only technically but visually, which is desirable and affordable at the same time,” said de Hullu. Delving deeper into the eco-friendly possibilities, the architect proposed a car-free neighborhood, where sidewalks are nullified in favor of houses built on a continuous, multipurpose park. Cars are relegated to “fringe” parking spaces a certain distance away from the complex. With a maximum of 100 houses per hectare (or about 40.5 units per acre), the layout is decidedly denser than suburbia but less concentrated than downtown high-rises. “The density of OAS1S communities is much higher because of the double land use as a park as well. The concept can integrate a mixed-use or single or multi-family housing, plus hotel or office use,” explains the architect. “On top of that, leisure and commercial use can be integrated at the ground level, covered by green roofs with tree-like units above.” Hypothetically, if these urban forests were to incorporate within established cities, the car-free idea has likelier sticking power as inhabitants could still use public transportation. In a more rural setting, the automobile would be less dispensable. To make the units affordable, de Hullu proposes a community land trust model, where a non-profit will own the land and homeowners can sell their properties for a limited profit.
Seattle is abuzz about zoning. Last week, The Seattle Times leaked a draft report produced by Mayor Ed Murray's housing task force, a 28-member committee steering the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA). While the report outlines a variety of strategies to increase affordable housing in the Seattle region, one bold recommendation is getting a lot of attention: the upzoning of single family housing in Seattle to multi-family housing. On Monday, Mayor Murray released an action plan outlining the overall vision: build 20,000 affordable housing units and 30,000 market rate units in the next decade through public and private investments. By 2035, the city is expected to grow by 120,000 people. "The exclusivity of Single Family zones limits the type of housing available, limits the presence of smaller format housing and limits access for those with lower incomes," reads the action plan. "The City will allow more variety of housing scaled to fit within traditional Single Family areas to increase the economic and demographic diversity. The broader mix of housing will include small lot dwellings, cottages or courtyard housing, rowhouses, duplexes, triplexes and stacked flats." A map on the HALA website shows that the proposed upzoning changes, if passed, would affect 16 percent of Seattle. But The Seattle Times reports otherwise. An architect and developer on the housing committee told the paper that the upzoning would affect all single-family lots. You can read the final version of the Seattle housing committee report at Seattle.gov.
The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) is looking for developers eager to turn an abandoned juvenile detention center in the Bronx into the city's "next creative live/work community." The Spofford Juvenile Detention Center has been closed since 2011, and as DNAinfo reported, it had a notorious reputation for "verbally and physically abusive staff members and poor living conditions, which included serving kids food that was infested with roaches and giving them clothes and underwear that had already been used, according to a 2004 report from the Correctional Association of New York." In a press release accompanying its Request for Expressions of Interest for the site, the NYCEDC said, "respondents are encouraged to consider a wide range of residential and non-residential uses for the site, including commercial, cultural, institutional and light manufacturing." The city also wants developers to put an emphasis on bringing "high-quality, career-oriented jobs" to the Hunts Point community. The affordable housing included within the complex would count toward Mayor de Blasio's ambitious plan to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing in a decade. “By encouraging the co-existence of commercial and light industrial activities with mixed-income residential use, we can better leverage our City’s assets to provide opportunities and strengthen communities throughout the five boroughs," said NYCEDC Interim President Kim Vaccari in a statement. Responses to the RFEI are due October 1st.
U.S. Housing & Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro visited Chicago today to announce a clarification to the 1968 Fair Housing Act that officials say will improve access to affordable housing in cities across the country. HUD finalized a bureaucratic rule that Castro says will correct shortcomings in the federal agency's provision of fair housing. The 1968 law, part of the Civil Rights bill, obligates HUD and its local affiliates to “affirmatively further fair housing,” a lofty goal that “has not been as effective as originally envisioned,” according to the new HUD rule. "This represents a new partnership with cities,” said Secretary Castro, a former mayor of San Antonio, Texas. Standing in front of Chicago's newly expanded Park Boulevard—the mixed-income housing development was formerly Stateway Gardens, part of the corridor of South Side housing projects that included Robert Taylor Homes—Castro said the new rule will make publicly available data and mapping tools to help community members and local leaders establish local goals for the development fair housing. He added that Chicago had already used the newly available data for a preliminary exercise linking affordable housing and transit planning. The change also allows local housing agencies more time and flexibility in presenting their fair housing priorities and goals to the federal government. Castro referenced a recent Harvard study that found kids from low-income neighborhoods were statistically less likely than their wealthier counterparts to achieve upward mobility. "A zip code should never prevent anyone from reaching their greater aspirations,” said Castro.