Posts tagged with "Affordable Housing":

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NYC could create a whole new neighborhood over a Queens rail yard

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s feasibility study for a possible Sunnyside Yard “overbuild” project is complete and suggests that the project could cost anywhere from $16 to $19 billion, according to the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). “In Western Queens, there remains one of New York City’s last great opportunities to solve many of these challenges in one place,” said Alicia Glen, deputy mayor for housing and economic development, calling the development a “new and innovative solution” to meet New York City’s growing housing and transportation needs. The 180-acre rail yard, which sits in the center of Western Queens, is a major transportation center owned by Amtrak and Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) that services the New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Rail Road. Some entities are already proposing updates to the site—Amtrack, in particular, is planning a new High-Speed Rail facility that will open by 2030. The feasibility study took many of these developments into account, focusing on the engineering, economic, and urban design implications of the project, and after almost two years of study, the report concludes that the project is feasible, albeit costly. In the study, the NYCEDC establishes three case study plans with different program focuses. The first proposes almost entirely residential development, adding up to 24,000 units of housing. Of those residences, 30% would be allocated for affordable housing, part of de Blasio’s affordable housing goals outlined for New York City. The proposal would also add up to 19 schools and almost 50 acres of open space. The second study, dubbed the “live/work/play” proposal, was designed to offer a well-rounded program with residential, cultural centers, and office space. This proposal is the only proposal to include office space and would still incorporate up to 19,000 units of mixed-income housing and up to 14 schools. The third and final study is the “destination” proposal, which focuses on residential and cultural spaces. The proposal features almost 1.5 million square feet of mixed-use space and up to 22,000 units of housing, still allowing for retail spaces and up to 14 schools. Each of the three proposals focuses on developing the 80 to 85 percent of the site the NYCEDC has deemed viable and connecting it to the surrounding neighborhoods using existing bridges and roads and adding significant green space to the area. During their study, the NYCEDC selected a 70-acre portion of the site, called the “Core Yard,” as an optimal place to begin the development, with a price tag of approximately $10 billion. The area features enough space to create a complete neighborhood and is well-located to incorporate the Amtrak master plan. In the second phase of the master plan, the NYCEDC plans to look in greater detail at how to avoid significant impact on transportation infrastructure. They also hope to create a detailed urban plan and consider sustainable initiatives and architectural standards for future buildings. Before that phase, however, de Blasio and the NYCEDC will collect feedback from the community and work with Amtrak, who plans to begin construction on a High-Speedeed Rail facility at Sunnyside Yard in early 2018, according to QNS. You can read the full report about the feasibility of Sunnyside Yards here.
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655 new units of affordable housing coming to East Harlem

In East Harlem, a cluster community gardens will soon make way for a large affordable housing complex. Developer Jonathan Rose Companies is set to build 655 apartments ensconced in an amenity-loaded project along East 111th and 112th streets, between Park and Madison avenues. The 751,000-square-foot complex, dubbed Sendero Verde (green pathway), is meant to be a "self-sustaining" community, with a Mount Sinai–run health care center, grocery store, restaurant, job training, charter school, a YMCA, and facilities for Union Settlement, a venerable community organization, on-site. Rose is partnering with L+M to develop the project, which is designed by New York–based Handel Architects. "Our goal is to create a complete community… not only housing but services for all the residents," Rose told Politico. "We hope this block will be a real model of transformation, not only for the new residents who live there but for the whole neighborhood." On a green note, the development will follow passive house standards for improved energy efficiency, while the four community gardens will be planted anew inside the project. Sendero Verde foreshadows changes for a neighborhood that is preparing for a 57-square-block rezoning that will permit buildings up to 30 stories tall in some areas. Although the city will regulate the buildings' rents, making this a "100 percent affordable" development in HPD-speak, the highest rent thresholds exceed those of market-rate buildings nearby. While East Harlem's overall supply of affordable housing could shrink due to development pressure, the neighborhood is slated for more brand-new affordable buildings, like L+M's Lexington Gardens II, designed by New York's Curtis + Ginsberg, which sits a couple blocks away from Sendero Verde.
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NYC to replace parking garage with hundreds of affordable units in Jamaica, Queens

New York City is set to replace an underused NYPD parking garage it owns with affordable housing on the eastern edge of Queens. “Under Housing New York, we committed to looking at every city-owned site as an opportunity to build affordable housing," said outgoing Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Vicki Been. "We are thrilled that in partnership with EDC and the NYPD, we now have a proposal to develop a dynamic mixed-use facility with affordable homes, a recreational facility, and commercial space in the heart of Jamaica, Queens.” A three-agency team selected Omni New York to develop the all-affordable complex, which will include 350 units plus commercial space. Plans for the 450,000-square-foot project put the NYPD parking garage below-grade, with street-level retail fronting 168th Street between Jamaica and Archer avenues—all busy neighborhood thoroughfares. The development is a partnership between the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), HPD, and the Housing Development Corporation (HDC). While Omni manages a portfolio of thousands of units nationwide, last month the city's Human Rights Commission charged that the company had discriminated against tenants who use housing vouchers and rental assistance, the Daily News reports. Omni denies all allegations. This project falls under the Jamaica Now Action Plan, a sweeping neighborhood revitalization initiative that launched in 2015. The $153 million plan emphasizes the community's "livability," which here includes workforce development and help for small business, as well as investments in public space.
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Chicago’s Regional Housing Initiative is streamlining affordable housing development

Chicago’s Regional Housing Initiative (RHI) is working with housing authorities to distribute affordable housing vouchers throughout the Chicagoland area. The Regional Housing Initiative brings together 10 housing authorities, with administrative bodies including the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), BRicK Partners, and CMAP. Starting in 2002 the initiative was started to optimize the process for developers building affordable housing, and to address the disproportionate distribution of funds throughout the region. Currently, the RHI is seeking developers interested in receiving vouchers to help finance new projects. By pooling a portion of their allotted federal rental assistance vouchers, the participating housing authorities can better support the ever changing needs those in need of affordable housing. Since its founding, the RHI has helped with the development of 500 apartments in 33 developments in 22 different communities. This is achieved by matching up developers with voucher holders, ensuring new developments have tenants. One of the main goals of the RHI is to help direct developers to build in low-poverty, high-opportunity communities, where tenants could conceivably have better access to civic amenities and job opportunities. The rental assistance vouchers are part of the Federal Housing and Urban Development’s Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program. This program distributes vouchers to local public housing agencies. These vouchers are then distributed to families whose income does not exceed 50% of the median income of the area. In Chicago, the vast majority of affordable housing being built is done by private developers as part of mixed-income developments. The Regional Housing Initiative is now actively looking for developers interested in applying for rental assistance vouchers to help finance new projects.
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Inwood has questions as city quickly prepares to develop new library with affordable housing

"This entire process feels like window dressing for decisions already taken." So read a guerilla message plastered on design boards at a recent library visioning session in Inwood, a neighborhood at Manhattan's northern tip. The city announced last month that it will sell the Inwood branch library, on busy Broadway, to a developer who will build all-affordable housing and a new library on-site. The New York Public Library (NYPL) said that after the demolition, the rebuilt Inwood branch would be the same size and provide the same services. The Robin Hood Foundation, an antipoverty nonprofit, is putting $5 million towards the project to match the city's contribution. Although the housing would be privately developed, the city would maintain ownership over the library. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) expects construction on the new building to begin in 2019. To prepare for changes, HPD has organized three visioning sessions about the library's future. The first was held last Wednesday night, and attracted about 60 people: HPD planner Felipe Cortes noted that the crowd was mostly older and whiter, an observation reflected in the number of stickers on the respective English and Spanish-language design and programming visioning boards. Residents were asked to express their preference for a new building at 115, 145, and 175 feet in height with 90, 110, and 135 units, respectively. Not included: an option to preserve the building, which dates to 1952. At the session, some residents felt the project was moving ahead too fast, and that public input would not substantially impact the city's plans; similar concerns were voiced earlier this month at a Manhattan Community Board 12 meeting, DNAinfo reported. "Bill de Blasio is too eager to cave to developers," said resident Sally Fisher. "It's like the city put a 'For Sale' on Inwood." She wondered where teenagers and children will congregate once demolition is underway. The impending sale follows two others that the city has authorized in Brooklyn Heights and Sunset Park, Brooklyn, both of which have sparked community outcry. (Brooklyn Public Library is a separate system from the NYPL, which covers Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island.)  For the Inwood deal, it's not yet clear who will own the deed—HPD says those details have yet to be determined. The library, one of the most-used in the system, is in dire need of repairs and upgrades. Pointing to a water-damaged drop ceiling, library manager Denita Nichols said that the building is showing signs of wear and tear, and the full renovation 16 years ago has not kept pace with changing technology or current community needs. Nichols said library, which is one of the few open seven days a week, has to accommodate quiet study spaces and more social spaces. "I would love to see a flex space with a culture center—that would really be great to me if it happened," she said. NYPL will continue to do community outreach around the project before any design decisions are made.
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NYC unveils new affordable housing developed by women and people of color

Update 1/18/17: This post was updated to include the architects for each project. As part of an ongoing affordable housing development drive, New York City has selected eight Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBEs) to develop hundreds of affordable units across three boroughs. The six city-owned sites—in East New York and Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn; Melrose and Crotona Park East, the Bronx; and Central Harlem, Manhattan—will be 100 percent affordable across a broad range of incomes. The developments will include 440 units for seniors, the homeless, and extremely-low income New Yorkers. “These Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprise firms are offering first-rate projects that will serve a diverse set of New York communities and New Yorkers," said Mayor Bill de Blasio, in a statement. "I congratulate them, and expect to see important work from each of them as we continue to work together in the future to protect affordability and quality of life in all our neighborhoods." The developments will include a STEM center for high schoolers, a tech center, space for a green market, and an LGBT community center. The M/WBE contracts are part of the city's goal to award 30 percent of the value of its contracts to nonwhite and woman firms by 2021. To meet its metrics, the city is increasing access to capital and putting resources towards capacity-building for M/WBE firms, among other measures. The six winning projects are pictured below: 1921 Atlantic Avenue Architect: GF55 Developer: Dabar Development Partners and Thorobird Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn "The 25,762 square-foot site will be transformed into a mixed-use project with 183 affordable homes for seniors, and low- and moderate-income households. The project will feature a community facility operated by Oko Farms and NHS. A new fresh food grocery store will be created." 1510-1524 Broadway Architect: GLUCK+ Developer: MacQuesten Construction Management Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn "Partnering with the not-for-profit East Brooklyn Housing Development Corporation, the M/WBE will create 59 affordable homes for extremely-low income individuals on the 20,059 square-foot parcel." 461 Alabama Avenue Architect: Newman Design Developer: CB Emmanuel Realty East New York, Brooklyn "In partnership with the non-for-profit Services for Underserved, the M/WBE firm will transform the 10,000 square-foot lot into a supportive housing development, with 55 homes for formerly homeless and low-income households. The nonprofit will provide onsite supportive services for the homeless. The building will feature a recreation room, a landscaped yard and roof for resident use." 1490 Southern Boulevard Architect: Bernheimer Architecture Developer: Type A Real Estate Advisors Crotona Park East, the Bronx "[490 Southern Boulevard will be developed] into a 95-unit senior housing development, affordable to senior households with incomes between $25,400 and $38,100. Working with the LGBT Network and the Jewish Association Serving the Aging, the project will offer support services for senior residents and a community space with programing for the LGBT community of all ages." 359 East 157th Street Construction Services: FG-PH Developer: Infinite Horizons Melrose, the Bronx "With MBD Community Housing Corp., the M/WBE firm will build 20 affordable homes on the 4,700 square-foot parcel. The homes will be affordable to individuals with incomes between $50,750 and $63,500, and families with incomes between $65,250 and $81,600. The development will feature a green roof and solar panels." 263-267 West 126th Street Architect: Aufgang Architects Developer: Lemor Realty Corporation and Apex Building Group Central Harlem, Manhattan "The companies will build a passive-house development with 29 affordable homes on the 8,492 square-foot property. The project will house a restaurant and space for the tech incubator company Silicon Harlem, which offers the Apps Youth Leadership Academy, a seven-week course for high school students focused STEM education and enrichment."
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WXY and Local Projects–designed theater included in new Bronx affordable housing complex

Today officials broke ground on Bronx Commons, an affordable housing complex designed by Danois Architects and WXY Architecture + Urban Design. The mixed-use development, in the South Bronx's Melrose, includes 305 affordable apartments and is developed by local nonprofit WHEDco and BFC Partners in conjunction with New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). In a distinctive twist, the project is grounded by a 14,000-square-foot, 300-seat arts and cultural center and performance space. The Bronx Music Hall, which grew out of WHEDco's storefront music "lab," will bring programming to thousands annually and focus on nurturing the borough's artists. A public plaza and 22,000 square feet of retail at East 163rd Street rounds out the program. “As we build more and more needed affordable housing, there is no finer tribute to New York’s deep artistic history than including a music hall in this Bronx development," said Mayor Bill de Blasio, in a statement. "The projects will transform long-vacant City land into a vibrant cultural mecca and residential community for the borough and the City. I congratulate the Melrose community, and the future residents of this 100 percent affordable development." True to its diverse programming, the project is being executed by three different New York firms. Danois Architects is designing the housing, while WXY and Local Projects are designing the Bronx Music Hall. The latter firm specializes in interactive media design and its work anchors the new and stellar permanent exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York. The 426,000-square-foot project is being built on vacant city-owned land, the last free parcel in the Melrose Commons Urban Renewal Area. The city is touting its "deep" affordability, with units for households making between 30 and 110 percent of the Area Median Income, or $22,032 and $89,760 for a family of three. The borough's median household income was $34,299 for 2015. This article appears on HoverPin, a new app that lets you build personalized maps of geo-related online content based on your interests: architecture, food, culture, fitness, and more. Never miss The Architect’s Newspaper’s coverage of your area and discover new, exciting projects wherever you go! See our HoverPin layer here and download the app from the Apple Store.
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Terra-cotta in context: a contextual bridge between past and present

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After nearly ten years, Downtown Brooklyn's City Point—a three-phase, 1.8 million-square-foot mixed-use development—was recently completed. It features a unique assemblage of housing towers—one dedicated to market-rate housing, with another predominantly containing affordable housing—atop a shared retail podium. Designed by New York–based architecture firm COOKFOX, the development is directly adjacent to the planned Willoughby Square Park, Albee Square, and the historic 1908 Dime Savings Bank. The architects said the project is about “tying together Downtown Brooklyn’s grand past with its thriving future.” This is represented through a dynamic faceted massing strategy that responds to a triangular corner lot on Fulton Street, and a white and pale gray terra-cotta rainscreen that subtly reflects the marbled exterior of the century-old bank next door. COOKFOX spokesman Jared Gilbert said when the project began in 2007 only 200 units of housing existed in the neighborhood, which now boasts tens of thousands of units. "We needed to design something that met this new reality of Downtown Brookyln, which is that it is a full-service 24-hour neighborhood."
  • Facade Manufacturer Shildan (Phase 1); Island International Exterior Fabricators (Phase 2 Tower 1)
  • Architects COOKFOX Architects with Greenberg Farrow Architects (Phase 1); COOKFOX Architects with SLCE Architects (Phase 2 Tower 1)
  • Facade Installer Acadia Realty Trust, Crowne Architectural (Phase 1); International Exterior Fabricators, Empire Glass, Elite Glass (Phase 2 Tower 1)
  • Facade Consultants Frank Seta & Associates (Phase 2 Tower 1)
  • Location Brooklyn, NY
  • Date of Completion 2012 (Phase 1); 2016 (Phase 2 Tower 1)
  • System steel frame with terra-cotta rainscreen (Phase 1); Prefabricated mega-wall panels with standing seam zinc cladding and Skyline aluminum windows (Phase 2 Tower 1)
  • Products ALPHATON® Terra-cotta Rainscreen and BAGUETTE® Sunscreen by Shildan, VM Zinc (Phase 1); Rheinzink in “Blue Gray," Rheinzink in “Graphite Gray," Invarimatte Stainless Steel, Skyline Windows (Phase 2 Tower 1)
As architects increasingly confront the issue of contextualism of our cities, terracotta rainscreen manufacturer Shildan is seeing an enormous increase in demand. "We see many more terra-cotta projects each year, with projects getting larger and more complicated. Designers are pushing the envelope to create more complicated shapes, details, and custom finishes, and it’s not just the architects and owners [who] need to be satisfied. We work closely with various kinds of administrators, historic commissions, city planners, government boards and committees, etc—those with a vested interest in seeing the entire context unfold cohesively.” City Point's Phase One retail base is composed of a typical stick built facade with layers of waterproofing and insulation over stick built metal stud construction. An applied rainscreen system by Shildan is installed by first mounting a framework of sub-girts with integral clips to the facade. The open joint terra-cotta panels are then hung off this system. Moshe Steinmetz, president of Shildan, said City Point was a milestone terra-cotta project in the US for its incorporation of custom blends of glazes and profiles. "There has been more and more demand for unique glazing. We are now seeing unique glazing on the terra-cotta on about 50% of our jobs." Steinmetz says terra-cotta has a particular "wow factor" that provides an owner an exterior facade system that has energy savings, incorporates healthy wall construction (open joint rainscreen systems minimize mold and mildew growth), low maintenance, and high durability. He says 30- and 40-year-old terra-cotta systems are clearly outperforming other building components: "You don't see the age of the building on the terra-cotta material - you see it elsewhere in the the windows and other finishes." The architects incorporated two terra-cotta extrusions into the design that are finished in a series of glazes and colors that helps to randomize the facade. The resulting variation promotes what their office calls an interest in the concept of biophilia—people’s natural affiliation to the complexity of natural patterns in the world. This subtle variation in the glaze and the variation in profiles and the way they are randomly deployed is to create a somewhat more natural pattern and rhythm,” said Susie Teal, senior associate at COOKFOX. This interest in patterning can also be seen in Phase Two, which was recently completed. At over 1 million square feet, this phase includes a retail podium and two residential towers that involve separate developers with separate programs. Teal said Tower One includes 80% affordable housing and features a “low-budget facade system” composed of prefabricated “megapanels,” unitized 10-by-40-foot panels, by Island International Exterior Fabricators in a defunct Long Island-based airplane hanger. The panels were craned off a truck, set onto the facade, and gasketed together for rapid assembly. The wall panels are finished in a standing seam zinc with staggered spacing varying from 5-inches, 10-inches, and 20-inches. Randomly locating the zinc standing seams helped the architects visually conceal large 1-inch joints while mimicking a more varied natural pattern. "This helps to blend in a construction system so you don't see a lot of seams," said Teal. “Also, zinc is a natural material—most famously used in Parisian roofs. It lasts a long time and patinas dependent on the local atmospheric conditions. The north side might end up weathering different than the south side. This was all intentional. In order to watch this material change, we have randomly distributed stainless steel panels that will stay bright and shiny.”
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Colorado proposes to build affordable housing with legal marijuana tax revenues

A new initiative by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper seeks to divert $16.3 million in tax revenue generated from the state’s legal marijuana trade toward creating permanently affordable housing units for homeless individuals in the state. The Denver Post reports that the Governor’s plan would allocate $12.3 million in legal marijuana tax revenues to build 1,200 affordable housing units for chronically homeless individuals as well as 300 additional units for periodically homeless individuals over the next five years. Hickenlooper also proposes taking $4 million in funds to construct 354 assisted housing units that will be paired with behavioral health services facilities over the same time frame. The Governor’s budget proposal also features $2 million worth of incentives to generate 250 affordable housing units for senior citizens and individuals fighting displacement. The Denver Post also reports that Colorado has seen a six-percent increase in homelessness this year, bringing the state’s unhoused population to 10,000, according to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Meanwhile, the state’s total supply of year-round beds allocated to serve this population numbers less than 7,000. Allocating tax revenues generated from the sales of legal marijuana toward housing services would require a change in the law which currently only allows for these funds to be spent on marijuana and addiction-related measures. It would introduce a new question to the legalized marijuana debate: If such revenues are no longer being spent directly on enforcement and substance abuse programs, then how might they be extended across various aspects of society? The budget proposals come amid an increasing belief among state officials, according to Hickenlooper, that homelessness and the state’s legal marijuana trade go hand-in-hand. Backers of this theory believe that easier access to marijuana can exacerbate substance abuse problems among the population at large. The Colorado Springs Gazette reports Hickenlooper as saying, "We're trying to make sure that the [marijuana] tax revenue is to a large extent, if we're going to build affordable housing, is for people that had a drug problem. We're trying to use the revenues for unintended consequences of drug use, especially legalization of marijuana." According to the governor’s budget office, state taxes on medical and recreational marijuana came to $134 million over the first nine months of 2016. Those funds are largely earmarked for enforcement, mental health, and substance abuse efforts in the state.
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A new book explores the fight—past, present, and future—to realize NYC’s public and affordable housing

I can trace my interest in New York City’s public housing to a very specific moment back in 2005. New to the city, on a visit to the Queens Museum of Art, I marveled at the “Panorama of the City of New York,” the great model of the city built by Robert Moses for the 1964 World’s Fair. While taking it all in—the Manhattan grid and Central Park, the bridges and piersand waterfront, the city’s terrific expanse—I wondered about the many clusters of red towers cropping up all over the five boroughs. “What are those?” I asked a friend. “The projects,” he answered. “What do you mean the projects?” I asked. “Public housing,” he said—“It’s where the poor live.” I blushed.

Affordable housing, its state, and most pressingly, the lack of it, has been a concern in New York City for more than a century. Most recently Mayor Bill de Blasio has made it a central focus of his administration, promising to create and preserve 200,000 affordable units over ten years. That’s a monumental goal. In 2015, as we learn in the introduction to Affordable Housing in New York, a wonderful new book edited by Nicholas Dagen Bloom and Matthew Gordon Lasner, 8 percent of the city’s rental apartments (some 178,000 units) were still in government-owned and -operated public housing developments, with hundreds of thousands more New Yorkers living in complexes like Co-op City, privately-owned, below-market buildings developed with governmental aid and subsidies.

Bloom and Lasner, and the exquisite group of contributors they assembled for this volume, look into the first hundred years of projects, programs, policies, communities, and individuals that brought to life this one-of-a-kind housing stock. They focus on what they call “below-market subsidized housing,” noting that “affordable housing,” a term that is in wide use today and one that they use in the book’s title, is “a comparative term that can be stretched to include many kinds of housing”—much of what today is called “affordable,” in fact, can hardly be afforded by working-class families, let alone the poor. Anyone who tries to understand how below-market subsidized housing works in New York City is faced with a mind-boggling tangle of terms and myriad city, state, and federal programs, laws, subsidies, stimuli, grants, tax credits, and abatements, not to mention rent regulations and alternative ownership models. This book offers a way to untangle and understand these terms and their histories.

The volume begins at the turn of the 20th century, when housing the urban poor was essentially a private, philanthropic endeavor. In 1926, in response to mounting pressure due to the abysmal nature and magnitude of the problem, Governor Alfred E. Smith opened the way for governmental involvement in housing with the Limited Dividend Housing Companies Act, the nation’s first law to offer tax exemptions to developers of affordable housing and, most important, to allow the use of eminent domain for site assembly. Organized in six chapters that trace a roughly chronological trajectory, the book offers critical overviews of different waves of housing development as well as a series of essays that analyze case studies of representative communities and short sketches of key figures and programs. Most interestingly, the book tackles this history with what the editors call a “humanistic, longitudinal, large-scale approach,” training “a humanistic lens on discussions usually dominated by designers, social scientists, and policy analysts.” By analyzing about three dozen housing projects of different eras in their social and historical context, the book sheds new light on this multifaceted history without falling into the trap of becoming an obscure laundry list of housing policies.

The housing supplied over this troubled century, as the country was being radically transformed by two world wars, several immigration waves, and the Great Depression all the way to the Great Recession, never seems to meet the demand. Displacement, racial segregation, and the stigma of poverty were (and remain) persistent problems. It is especially frustrating to realize how far behind we are lagging as a society when one considers that, to this day, we cannot meet a goal set 80 years ago by Langdon Post, a housing activist appointed by then-mayor Fiorello La Guardia to head the newly created New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), who claimed that the First Houses, a public housing complex built in 1936 in the Lower East Side, were “the first dwellings which are predicated upon the philosophy that sunshine, space, and air are minimum housing requirements to which every American is entitled.”

Many of the people that advocated and fought for public housing were larger-than-life personalities. Their battles, as well as their successes and failures, were big, and we live to this day with the legacy of their work. (The stories of New York City housing activists told in this book could well be optioned for a movie.) Women, in particular, were central for bringing about the much-needed changes in housing policy in New York City and beyond. In addition to an essay on the writer and urban activist Jane Jacobs, a revealing essay is dedicated to Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch (1867–1951), a housing activist who played a key role in “transforming the Progressive Era movement for settlement houses and tenement regulation into a local and national movement for tenement destruction and public housing construction.” Developing her ideas on housing management based on the work of another important woman, the 19th-century London social reformer Octavia Hill, Simkhovitch became “the force behind maternal systems of tenant management.” She also worked with the housing reformer Edith Elmer Wood and with Catherine Bauer Wurster, a leading public housing advocate and author of the influential 1934 book Modern Housing, with whom Simkhovitch drafted many of the provisions for the United States Housing Act of 1937. Closer to us, we read about Yolanda Garcia’s work as the leader of the Bronx coalition Nos Quedamos and about Rosanne Haggerty’s innovative approach to “supportive housing” with the organization Common Ground.

Bloom and Lasner argue that, despite many setbacks and shortcomings, New York City’s efforts are ultimately a success story: There are lessons to be learned from the complex process of building and preserving, physically and socially, publicly subsidized housing. If the book is a historical study of the city’s first century of below-market housing, its larger aim, the editors write, is that of “securing more resources for a second.”

One of the book’s happiest merits is that it tries to put a face to the hundreds of thousands of people who live in the projects—with a powerful photographic essay by David Schalliol. Affordable Housing in New York also lets us hear some of the voices of public housing residents. A revealing essay is dedicated to “Hip Hop and Subsidized Housing.” Hip-hop’s genesis can be traced to a 1973 party in General Sedgwick House, a Mitchell-Lama rental complex built in 1969 in the Bronx. In the words of Jay Z, who grew up at the Marcy Houses in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant, “Housing projects are … these huge islands built mostly in the middle of nowhere, designed to warehouse lives. People are still people, though, so we turned the projects into real communities, poor or not.” Meanwhile, he continued, “even when we could shake off the full weight of those buildings and just try to live, the truth of our lives and struggle was still invisible to the larger country.”

Affordable Housing in New York is a worthy step toward lifting this veil of invisibility.

Affordable Housing in New York: The People, Places, and Policies That Transformed a City Nicholas Dagen Bloom and Matthew Gordon Lasner Princeton University Press, $39.95

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Facebook to invest $20 million in affordable housing

After receiving criticism for displacing low-income residents in Silicon Valley, tech giant Facebook will invest $20 million in below-market-rate projects in Menlo Park and East Palo Alto, California. Housing activists have long blamed Facebook for contributing to extreme income inequality in the area. This is not only because the corporation has displaced residents by expanding its headquarters campus, but also because of a seemingly well-meaning policy that offered bonuses to employees who lived near campus in Menlo Park rather than in San Francisco proper. Critics say this policy accelerated gentrification of the area and caused low-income tenants to be evicted in favor of the higher-earning Facebook employees. Of course, Facebook alone cannot be blamed for the Bay Area’s gentrification—Google, Apple, and hundreds of other heavy hitting technology firms and start-ups also call the area home. Plus, according to nonprofit group Public Advocates, the housing shortage in Silicon Valley has reportedly reached crisis levels, with the region building only 26 percent of the housing needed for lower-earning people. With Facebook’s new campus expansion, which entails adding 1.1 million new square feet to its current complex and plans to hire 6,5000 new employees over the next few years, community groups were concerned. In response, Facebook partnered with local activists and community groups, such as Youth United for Community Action, Faith in Action Bay Area, Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, and Comité de Vecinos del Lado Oeste – East Palo Alto, as well as the local governments of East Palo Alto and Menlo Park to address the impact it will have on the Bay Area. Facebook is legally required to contribute $6.3 million to affordable housing thanks to development laws but does seem to be genuinely invested in the community. In addition to the $6.3 million required, another $12.2 million has been pledged to below-market-rate housing, $500,000 will go toward helping those displaced with legal and rental assistance, and $625,000 will go to job training in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). “Since shortly after Facebook was created, we’ve been part of Silicon Valley and the Bay Area. The region—this community—is our home,” said vice president of public policy and communications Elliot Schrage in a statement. “We want the region to remain strong and vibrant and continue a long tradition of helping to build technologies that transform the future and improve the lives of people around the world, and also in our extended neighborhood. We all need to work together to create new opportunities for housing, transportation and employment across the region. We’re committed to join with the community to help.”
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100-percent affordable housing complex proposed for San Francisco’s Mission District

San Francisco–based David Baker Architects, along with affordable housing developers BRIDGE Housing Corporation and Mission Housing Development Corporation, have released conceptual renderings for an upcoming, 100-percent affordable housing complex in San Francisco. The project, 1950 Mission, is to be developed in the Mission District neighborhood of the city and will provide 157 affordable units to the area, with 20 percent of those units set aside for formerly homeless families and the remaining homes allotted for families making between 45 and 60 percent of the area median income. According to city-data.com, the average median income for the Mission District in 2013 was $73,718.

The 1950 Mission complex is designed as a pair of apartment blocks connected by a central courtyard with a large, nine-story building fronting Mission Street and a smaller, five-story structure located along a mid-block alleyway.

The primary structure on Mission Street features a variously articulated facade arrangement that is segmented into three sections with a central stepped black-panel-clad portion flanked on either side by street-fronting apartment blocks. These facades, similarly clad in panelized finishes along the lower four floors with stucco walls above, feature storefront windows along the ground floor and punched openings denoting the apartment units above. The storefronts include smaller-than-average retail spaces designed to be occupied by local businesses, with plans to include an art gallery as well. The commercial areas along the ground floor will also feature varying ceiling heights, between 11 and 20 feet, in an arrangement that will help to boost the overall number of units developed through the project. The areas along the ground floor are set back from the building mass in certain areas, allowing the units above to create covered outdoor space underneath by acting as shade-casting overhangs.

The smaller apartment block will be accessed via a mid-block public approach that also connects to the central courtyard space and will feature an “artists’ paseo,” a walkway flanked with artists’ studios. With this arrangement, the designers hope to create a community gathering spot and arts-focused public space. The second apartment structure is set back from the alley with a 10-foot-wide planted area and features masonry-clad, undulating facades with specialized window hoods covering most of the building’s punched apertures. Those hoods are articulated to shield the openings from solar glare, and dot the stepped facade along various exposures. The building is topped by a rooftop garden and urban agriculture facility the architects have dubbed “Jardin de Las Familias,” and is connected to the larger structure via a series of stacked skywalks that traverse the courtyard area.

The project will provide on-site supportive services for future tenants via providers PODER, Mission Neighborhood Centers’ Head Start and Early-Head Start, Lutheran Social Services, and Mission Girls Services mentorship programs. Cervantes Design Associates will serve as associate architect on the project, which is currently moving through the entitlement process. A timeline for construction has not yet been released.