Posts tagged with "Affordable Housing":

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Major affordable housing developments coming to East Harlem and the Bronx

New York City is set to get hundreds of new units of affordable housing in the Bronx and Manhattan. On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio's office welcomed news that the City Council had approved four developments in the Bronx and East Harlem. Lawmakers had previously rejected rezonings that would've allowed affordable developments in Sunnyside, Cobble Hill, and Inwood, three major blows to the mayor's plan to build or preserve 200,000 units for low- and middle-income households over the next decade. In the Bronx, the biggest project is the redevelopment of the Lambert Houses, a $600 million initiative that will bring two elementary schools, a renovation of a local park, and $12.3 million in transit infrastructure improvements to the West Farms neighborhood. All units at the other Bronx developments, Morrisania's Melrose Commons and West Farms's Second Farms, will be completely rent-regulated. At East Harlem's Lexington Gardens, 20 percent of the units will be let for more than median rents, Politico reports. The complex, designed by Curtis + Ginsberg Architects and developed by L+M Development Partners and Tahl Propp Equities' Lexington Gardens, is a 400-unit development bounded by Park Avenue, East 108th Street, and East 107th Street. Retail, parking, and space for nonprofits will occupy a 15-story, 411,725-square-foot structure. The building is zoned for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), which ensures that units will remain permanently affordable. 20 percent of the Lexington Gardens apartments will be available to households making one-third of the area median income (AMI), which is $24,480 for a family of three, while an additional 30 percent will be offered to those making half of the AMI, or $40,800 for a three-person household. The full-block development portends residential construction elsewhere in the neighborhood: The pending East Harlem rezoning could bring 3,500 units to the area in the coming years.  
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Zaha Hadid Architects and Patrik Schumacher openly feud over public housing and privatizing public space

One of the world's top architecture firms has entered a public row with one of its partners. On November 17, Patrik Schumacher, a partner at Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) and renowned proponent of parametricism, took the stage at the World Architecture Forum in Berlin to deliver a speech that shocked some: Attacking government regulation and bureaucracy, he described an eight-point plan that called for the privatization of public space, the elimination of government-issued land use policies, and the abolishment of all social, affordable, and public housing, among other similar goals. In the speech, he decried how such laws, regulations, and practices stifle architectural creativity and development while giving tenants of public housing unfair access to city centers. "All top-down bureaucratic attempts to order the built environment via land use plans are pragmatically and intellectually bankrupt," he said, according to Dezeen. Schumacher has made similar statements in the past, though with less forcefulness. Last August, he told The Architect's Newspaper (AN) that "We at ZHA see society’s development differently and I’m willing to talk about my optimism for more market-based organization processes and entrepreneurial solutions to societal problems. Solutions to maybe what we can perceive to be certain economic statements and stagnation in recent years." Earlier this morning, ZHA published this letter, which AN has reproduced below:
Open letter from Zaha Hadid Architects November 29, 2016 Patrik Schumacher’s ‘urban policy manifesto’ does not reflect Zaha Hadid Architects’ past—and will not be our future. Zaha Hadid did not write manifestos. She built them. Zaha Hadid Architects has delivered 56 projects for all members of the community in 45 cities around the world. Refusing to be confined by limitations or boundaries, Zaha did not reserve her ideology for the lecture hall. She lived it. She deeply believed in the strongest international collaboration and we are very proud to have a hugely talented team of 50 different nationalities in our London office, including those from almost every EU country. 43% of architects at ZHA are of an ethnic minority and 40% of our architects are women. Zaha Hadid didn’t just break glass ceilings and pull down barriers; she shattered them—inviting everyone of any race, gender, creed or orientation to join her on the journey. Embedding a collective research culture into every aspect of our work, Zaha has built a team of many diverse talents and disciplines—and we will continue to innovate towards an architecture of inclusivity. Architects around the world are calling for the profession to become more inclusive. The national and international press have also done a very good job highlighting the critical issues of housing and the threats to vital public spaces. Through determination and sheer hard work, Zaha showed us all that architecture can be diverse and democratic. She inspired a whole new generation around the world to engage with their environment, to never stop questioning and never—ever—stop imagining. Collaborating with clients, communities and specialists around the world who share this vision, everyone at Zaha Hadid Architects is dedicated to honouring Zaha’s legacy, working with passion and commitment to design and deliver the most transformational projects for all. Zaha Hadid Architects  (Copyright © Zaha Hadid Architects)
It remains unclear exactly who authored the piece, or who among the firm's members, trustees, partners, etc. pushed for its publication. AN  will continue to cover this story as it evolves. UPDATE: Oliver Wainwright of the The Guardian has tweeted this:   UPDATE: “Come out Patrik, come out from under that table!” cry protesters at Zaha Hadid Architects’ London office
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NYC to get $300 million more for affordable housing this year

Thanks to some high-level maneuvering between feuding leaders, New York City is set to increase its capacity to build affordable housing. Last Friday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the state would grant $300 million in bonds to build or refurbish low- and moderate-income housing. The governor's okay raised the city's 2016 tax-exempt bond capacity to $771 million, the largest increase in a decade. "Homelessness is exploding and affordable housing is all but disappearing,” Cuomo said in a statement. “New York City needs this help from the state which will provide thousands of units of safe, clean, affordable housing and will help alleviate this crisis.” In another instance of state-city tensions, the state, per federal law, controls bond capacity, and that control has escalated tensions in the perpetual rivalry between Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio. Yesterday, though, the mayor's administration got to celebrate. "This funding is critical to keeping our affordable housing engine in high gear,” de Blasio spokeswoman Melissa Grace told the Daily News. “With so many vital projects lined up—including homes for low-income families and homeless seniors—we are grateful the State is coming forward with this additional $300 million allocation." Last year, the state gave the city $694 million in bond capacity, which was less than the city expected and delayed construction of affordable units, the mayor said. Friday's announcement comes on top of last week's deal between the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) and the Building and Construction Trades Council that seems set to revive 421-a (even after they temporarily reneged over a misunderstanding on the agreement's wage rates). Although housing advocates say the new exemption could cost New York billions in lost revenue each year, REBNY says the housing tax credit is essential to building affordable housing in the city.
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Real estate and unions bring 421-a tax break back from the dead

Union leaders and real estate power players have brokered a deal to revive an expired property tax break that many see as key to developing affordable housing in New York. The two groups agreed on a multipart deal to revive 421-a, one of the largest property tax exemptions for rental housing in the city. In its expired version and its just-forged incarnation, 421-a gives developers tax breaks for constructing multi-unit buildings on vacant land in certain areas of the city. The deal expired in January when the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), an industry association, and the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York (BCTC), an organization of building trades unions, could not reach an agreement on wages. Real estate developers said they could not finance affordable housing projects and pay the wages unions demanded, while unions argued that wealthy developers could pay, but didn't want to cut into profit margins. Unions also argued that their knowledge of workplace safety and skilled labor pool create job sites that are safer than non-union ones. One major part of the new deal is that union construction workers on 421-a property tax exempt projects be paid an average of $60 per hour, benefits included, for new construction in Manhattan south of 96th Street with 300-plus rental units. A second component applies to buildings of the same size in Queens and Brooklyn Community Boards 2 and 1, an area that roughly includes Astoria, Long Island City, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights, and Fort Greene, plus any eligible construction within one mile of the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront. On these 421-a eligible projects, construction workers would be paid $45 per hour, benefits included. The third portion paves the way for opt-outs. Any 421-a project where more than 50 percent of rental units are reserved for below-market-rate households is exempt from wage agreements, and these affordable units would remain so for 40 years. The property tax exemptions on these sites would be active for 35 years, up from 20 under previous 421-a rules. “We are pleased to have reached an agreement that will permit the production of new rental housing in New York City, including a substantial share of affordable units, while also ensuring good wages for construction workers," REBNY chairperson Rob Speyer said in a prepared statement first shared by Politico. The governor expressed measured approval, too. "The deal reached [last Thursday] between these parties provides more affordability for tenants and fairer wages for workers than under the original proposal," Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a prepared statement. "While I would prefer even more affordability in the 421-a program, this agreement marks a major step forward for New Yorkers." The proposed deal would apply to a 421-a bill passed (but not signed into law) by the state legislature in June of last year. That agreement would apply citywide, and it includes provisions that developers must hire independent auditors to review payroll. Developers will not have to hire unionized workers as long as they enter into labor agreements voluntarily with unions. If state legislators sign off on the REBNY and BCTC agreement, 421-a will be revived. Cuomo has indicated he will sign the changes into law in a special legislative session prior to the regular session that begins in January. Concurrently, the governor is urging lawmakers to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to release $2 billion in funds to build affordable housing for low- and middle-income households statewide. Right now, that money is entangled in other negotiations. In New York City, Mayor de Blasio is still reviewing the proposal to see if it passes his administration's standards. Politico points out that the deal that a similar he designed in association with REBNY last May was criticized by the governor. For their part, affordable housing developers are not pleased by the deal between the powerful groups. "Adding an additional 10 years (to the) exemption, on top of (an) already grossly excessive 25-year proposed exemption, yields a tax break that is unprecedented and unjustifiable on any fiscal or programmatic grounds," Benjamin Dulchin said in an email to Politico."[It's] unconscionable on its face." Dulchin is the head of the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development, a group that represents affordable housing developers. Since 421-a expired, applications for residential construction have dropped precipitously, so affected industries are hoping its revival will spur new construction.
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Developer says Long Island College Hospital will not have any affordable housing

Long Island College Hospital (LICH) has officially checked out of the mayor's plan to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing.
Owner Fortis Property Group will not seek to rezone the Cobble Hill, Brooklyn site, which means it can build market-rate (read: luxury) housing there instead. Mayor Bill de Blasio fought to keep the hospital open during his mayoral campaign three years ago; when that option became unlikely, the mayor fought to convert the site, a 20-building complex, into a mixed-use development with an affordable housing component.
The all-powerful market has spoken, though, and it has quashed those housing plans. "We have decided to move forward with an as-of-right redevelopment plan for the LICH site," Fortis president Joel Kestenbaum told Politico. "Based on the high demand for community facility space at this premier location, timing, and other development factors, an as-of-right redevelopment is the most profitable." Right now, an NYU Langone–operated medical facility occupies the site, and a smaller facility will be included in the redevelopment under the same operators. When the hospital closed in 2014, the mayor's office pushed to rezone the site to allow for denser development: Plans called for moving the tallest proposed tower away from the low- and mid-rise residential neighborhood and closer to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, which slices through Cobble Hill's western edge. Councilmember Brad Lander, whose district includes the LICH site, was skeptical of the density increase inherent in the rezoning. Lander would consider legal action if the development plan consists of a 35- and a 14-story tower, which the councilmember called "obnoxious" and "hideous." Fortis is still nailing down details of the conversion, though plans are said to include retail, a school, and green space.
The hospital deal is one of many sites being studied by the U.S. attorney's office as part of its investigation into the mayor's fundraising practices and allegations of pay-to-play deals centered on real estate.
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Former Bronx juvenile prison to become 740-unit affordable housing development

The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) have unveiled renderings for plans to redevelop a former Bronx juvenile prison into a mixed-use development centered on affordable housing. WXY architecture + urban design (WXY) are collaborating with Body Lawson Associates (BLA) to transform the notorious Spofford Juvenile Detention Center into The Peninsula, a $300 million project that will create 740 units of "100 percent" affordable housing. Along with typical deliverables—retail, community, and green space—for a project this size, the Peninsula will bring 49,000 square feet of light industrial space to the Hunts Point neighborhood. The project is one of many mixed-use complexes cropping up in the borough: In May, Mastermind Development broke ground on a $117.7 million project in East Tremont and FXFOWLE's La Central in Melrose is moving forward. The development team—Gilbane Development Company, Hudson Companies, and Mutual Housing Association of New York (MHANY)—was chosen through a 2015 request for expressions of interest (RFEI). The team is working with longtime neighborhood stakeholders like the Point CDC, BronxWorks, Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education, Urban Health Plan, Sustainable South Bronx, and others. In 2014 Majora Carter, the urban revitalization activist and founder/former executive director of Sustainable South Bronx, partnered with AutoDesk to imagine alternatives to the Spofford site, which operated as the Bridges Juvenile Center when it was shuttered by the city in 2011 over appalling conditions and inmate abuse. DNAinfo reports that a development team spearheaded by Carter was rejected in favor of the winning proposal. "The lack of diversity on the team chosen by NYCEDC to develop Spofford is not indicative of Mayor de Blasio’s much-publicized commitment to including minority businesses in the city’s contracting," Carter told DNAinfo. "Instead EDC selected a typical team composed exclusively of white men 'partnered' with uncompensated minority nonprofits to whom no transformative capital benefits will accrue." The five-building development is nevertheless coming online in three planned phases: Phase one is expected to be complete in 2021, with phase two coming online the year after, and the third and final phase set to open in 2024. In addition to providing housing, those facilities will host a business incubator, job training facilities, school space for pre-K (an on-site Head Start will be incorporated into the project) and higher ed, 52,000 square feet of open space, and an 18,000-square-foot health and wellness center operated by Urban Health Plan. Food is key to the Peninsula: According to the NYCEDC, in addition to a 15,000-square-foot supermarket, local favorites like Il Forno Bakery, Soul Snacks, Bascom Catering, and Hunts Point Brewing Company will be setting up shop in the development.
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Lambert Houses in the Bronx to be demolished, replaced with larger affordable development

Phipps Houses, a non-profit developer and owner of the Lambert Houses in the Bronx, is moving ahead with its plans to demolish 14 buildings at the Lambert Houses complex. Originally opened in the mid-1970s, the houses will be replaced with taller towers that will offer twice as many affordable housing units. Adam Weinstein, president and chief executive of Phipps Houses, cited the need for improved safety as a core reason for redevelopment, according to a report by The New York Times. At present, the Lambert Houses complex contains five groups of six-story buildings, with 731 affordable housing units and approximately 40,000 square feet of retail space. After redevelopment, there will be 1,665 new units, 61,100 square feet of retail space, and a possible elementary school for 500 students, according to DNAinfo. Should the School Construction Authority decide not to build the school, another residential complex with 55 units will take its place, according to the developer’s proposal. With papers filed in May of this year, the overhaul is set to cost $600 million and will take place over course of 14 years. Phipps Houses plans to shuffle residents around the complex as each building is demolished and built anew, at which point they will be returned to a new apartment unit, but the plan has left some residents skeptical. Longtime resident Anita Molina, 66, described the news as bittersweet to DNAinfo, saying "the only thing I hear around the neighborhood that people are worried about" is being forced out.
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Are micro-apartments a revolutionary trend? Or are developers exploiting an out-of-control market?

The situation was dire: People were flocking to cities for work, but scarce land and lack of new construction were driving up rent prices. Middle-income residents couldn’t afford the high-end housing stock, nor did they want to enter cramped—sometimes illegally so—apartments. Luckily, a new housing solution appeared: In exchange for small, single-occupancy units, residents could share amenities—like a restaurant-kitchen, dining area, lounge, and cleaning services—that were possible thanks to economies of scale. Sound familiar? It should: It’s the basic premise behind Carmel Place, a micro-apartment development in Manhattan’s Kips Bay that recently started leasing. The development—whose 55 units range from 260 to 360 square feet—was the result of Mayor Bloomberg’s 2012 adAPT NYC Competition to find housing solutions for the city’s shortage of one- and two-person apartments. Back then, Carmel Place needed special legal exceptions to be built, but last March the city removed the 400-square-foot minimum on individual units. While density controls mean another all-micro-apartment building is unlikely, only building codes will provide a de facto minimum unit size (somewhere in the upper 200 square foot range). What does this deregulation mean for New York City’s always-turbulent housing market? Will New Yorkers get new, sorely needed housing options or a raw deal? In a way, this deregulation is a return to an old, widespread, and subsequently outlawed, real estate formula. In New York City at the turn of the 20th century, converting hotels into apartments, and offering single-occupancy units with communal amenities, helped alleviate a housing shortage. These “apartment hotels” were wildly successful until legal changes in 1929 largely eliminated them. Now, it seems, the pendulum of history is swinging back: Carmel Place also offers shared amenities and services through a company named ollie (a wordplay on “all inclusive”). The project’s developer, Monadnock Development, has brought in ollie to facilitate weekly house cleaning, limited butler service, and more, to the building’s 25 market rate units and eight units for veterans with Section 8 vouchers. Those units will also come with space-saving furniture; the other 22 units are affordable but not serviced by ollie. While micro-apartments haven’t yet proliferated, there is a fundamental economic formula that makes them appealing for developers. It boils down to the difference between rent per square foot and chunk rent. The former is what developers use as a metric for market demand and revenue. The latter is the monthly rent the tenant pays. “Ollie is a sustainable housing model for attainably [sic] priced, high-quality housing, and we're really exploiting that understanding that the consumer is paying on a chunk rent basis and the developer is driving their model on a dollar per square foot basis,” explained Christopher Bledsoe, ollie’s cofounder. Furthermore, because rent is less a strain on residents’ finances, they become more reliable and long-term tenants. This dynamic isn’t just conjecture. Before ollie worked on Carmel Place, it renovated and leased micro units in an old Upper West Side building to demonstrate demand for smaller apartments. (The company didn’t offer its standard suite of amenities and services, so the development wasn’t branded “ollie.”) “One of the surprises is that this [micro unit] market is far broader than Millenials,” said Bledsoe. About 30 percent of the building’s renters were over age 34; they included empty nesters, retirees, those seeking to downsize or own pied-a-terres, long distance commuters, and many young couples, not all of whom were Millennials. Units in that building ranged from 178 to 375 square feet; demand was so high rent shot up to around $2,250 for the smallest units, $3,000 for the largest. “Over 40 percent of the tenants coming in [to the Upper West Side micro units] opted for a lease longer than 12 months. That's huge,” said Bledsoe. In light of this, Carmel Place is a more mature experiment in micro-living: What combination of amenities, services, and architecture can upend the long-held real estate belief that square footage determines what people will pay? This is where ollie’s pitch comes in: “For every one square foot I can eliminate from the apartment, I can give back $50 a year to the tenant in services,” said Bledsoe. Bledsoe sells ollie as essentially doing two things for renters: First, it leverages its purchasing power to provide economies of scale to its residents. Space-savvy products from Resource Furniture, WiFi, cable, Hello Alfred butler service, housekeeping, and social club membership through Magnises, are folded into the tenant’s rent. Bledsoe argues that those expenses are frequently hidden in rents, so including them helps tenants save time and keep Carmel Place competitive with nearby comparable units. Furthermore, he added, “It's not just about services and amenities, it's about the community.” At Carmel Place, a live-in community manager helps arrange social events ranging from BBQs to lectures by guest speakers. While ollie was hired after Carmel Place was designed by New York–based nARCHITECTS, the building’s design facilitated ollie’s mission: Carmel Place features a long, open, “main street” lobby, a ground floor gym, and on the top floor, a communal kitchen, dining area, extensive terrace, and outdoor grills. The walls between the top floor’s private terraces can even be swung aside, creating one giant shared terrace. ollie’s vision for a communal, dorm-like experience also recalls WeLive, WeWork’s coliving experiment (which, unlike a true apartment, doesn’t offer leases beyond 30 days). Rent at Carmel Place isn’t cheap: At the time of writing this article, unit 6H, furnished and 265 square feet, is going for $2,720 per month. If and when less expensive micro units are built, don’t count on the same quality furniture: Carmel Place’s Resource Furniture can quickly transform a studio into a one bedroom, but it’ll dent your wallet (a standard Carmel Place Resource Furniture setup costs $13,465). If micro-apartments proliferate, isn’t there risk that some won’t be able to afford that kind of hardware? “Yeah, absolutely,” said Frank Dubinsky, vice president at Monadnock Development, who added that, “In the future what will likely happen is there needs to be more furniture out there that works in these spaces. Resource's stuff is great but it's not inexpensive.” And what about affordable housing—will the next generation of New York’s affordable units be bare, 260 square foot apartments? Thankfully, on that count, no. When it comes to the city’s new MIH (Mandatory Inclusionary Housing) program, where developers must set aside 20 percent to 30 percent of a residential building’s floor areas for affordable housing, an affordable studio can’t be less than 400 square feet and an affordable one-bedroom can’t be less than 575 square feet. Furthermore, the mix of affordable unit types (studios, one-bedrooms, etc.) must match the ratio of market rate units. Combined with density controls, it’s very unlikely a residential building would use all its floor area for micro-apartments. MIH policies are currently only in effect in the recently rezoned East New York neighborhood but, overall, the program is a major part of the de Blasio administration’s plans to build or preserve 200,000 affordable units over the next decade. There’s also the unpredictable law of supply and demand to consider. California may offer some insight: In the 1980s, in a push to increase affordable housing stock, San Diego passed a legislation to allow micro-apartments. The practice subsequently spread to L.A., San Francisco, and beyond. “To a certain extent, you have to let people vote with they wallets,” said David Baker of San Francisco–based David Baker Architects. Baker’s firm recently designed an upscale condominium development in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley; half of its 69 units are micro-apartments. “If it doesn't rent, people won't build them. If you have more competition, they'll be better and rent for less.” Monadnock and nARCHITECTS created voluminous, bright, airy interiors for Carmel Place units. “Those things are not required by the zoning code—tall ceilings and big windows—but I think they're part and parcel with this becoming a replicable typology in New York City,” said Dubinsky. Only time will tell if New Yorkers avoid less generous micro-units, a fact that isn’t heartening to those were excited to see so many innovative housing solutions—including a full-scale, Resource Furniture-equipped micro-apartment interior—at the 2013 exhibition Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers at the Museum of the City of New York. Perhaps mid-tier micro-apartments will appear, along with lower cost furniture to match. Conversely, there’s the possibility that micro-apartments will remain a niche market in select cities where housing stock is short and a few urbanites will trade “space for place.” “At present, and for the foreseeable future, micro units are such a small segment of the new multi-family housing supply that's coming online in cities that it's highly unlikely they're going to have any material impact on rent,” said Stockton Williams, executive director of the Terwilliger Center for Housing at the Washington, D.C.–based Urban Land Institute (ULI). But in terms of how micro-housing is already evolving, ollie’s next two projects, one East Coast, one West Coast, may presage what form it’ll take. The first, in Long Island City, is 42 stories. Floors two through 15 will contain 426 ollie-served micro-apartments. They’ll have the same basic suite of amenities found at Carmel Place (Resource Furniture, WiFi, Hello Alfred, etc.). However, the conventional apartments can also opt into ollie’s services. The second development, in downtown Los Angeles, involves—in a twist of historical irony—a hotel. Located on a 192,000-square-foot site, the project will feature 30,000 square feet of amenities and retail. The 300 ollie micro-apartments will have access to the hotel’s amenities: “Rooftop pool, gym, lounge spaces, food and beverage, essentially what you'd expect to find in a trendy hotel amenities program,” said Bledsoe. “We're even talking about putting recording studios in the basement, doing some fun things that are more local.” Some of the micro-units will actually be micro suites (micro-units with a shared bathroom and kitchen), a model that a 2014 ULI report identified as being even more profitable for the developer. Maybe cities will find new reasons to dislike micro-apartments—when cities emptied in the 70s, their Single Room Occupancy (SRO) developments deteriorated, became stigmatized, and were vastly cut back. But this time around, there’s growing awareness among developers that communal living is marketable and desired by tenants. “For a lot of people home is the happy place, but more home doesn't equal more happy. I think more home equals more money and more maintenance,” said Bledsoe. But the exploration of micro-apartments’ future is just beginning. As Baker explained, they’re popular among seniors, not only for being cheaper, but simply “It's a lot less to clean… and they want the bathroom to be closer.” Seniors’ micro-apartments with rooftop shuffleboard? Middle-class micro-apartments paired with a Motel 6? Who knows. But if the micro-apartment does indeed take this many forms, maybe the pendulum of history won’t know which way to swing.
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Obama administration releases “Housing Development Toolkit” to lower barriers to new housing

The White House has published the "Housing Development Toolkit" in a bid to allow cities meet housing demands. The paper derides the current zoning laws and red tape that stand in the way of authorities building housing, thus leading to economic inequality and high rents that take a toll on the U.S. economy. Advocating increased density (which will mean more tall buildings), faster paths to construction, and fewer zoning barriers, the toolkit will not be welcome among NIMBY protestors. However, developers, mayors, and builders may think differently. The paper outlines "actions that states and local jurisdictions have taken to promote healthy, responsive, affordable, high-opportunity housing markets," including:
  • Establishing by-right development
  • Taxing vacant land or donate it to non-profit developers
  • Streamlining or shortening permitting processes and timelines
  • Eliminating off-street parking requirements
  • Allowing accessory dwelling units
  • Establishing density bonuses
  • Enacting high-density and multifamily zoning
  • Employing inclusionary zoning
  • Establishing development tax or value capture incentives
  • Using property tax abatements
The paper also says:
Over the past three decades, local barriers to housing development have intensified, particularly in the high-growth metropolitan areas increasingly fueling the national economy. The accumulation of such barriers—including zoning, other land use regulations, and lengthy development approval processes—has reduced the ability of many housing markets to respond to growing demand. The growing severity of undersupplied housing markets is jeopardizing housing affordability for working families, increasing income inequality by reducing less-skilled workers’ access to high-wage labor markets, and stifling GDP growth by driving labor migration away from the most productive regions. By modernizing their approaches to housing development regulation, states and localities can restrain unchecked housing cost growth, protect homeowners, and strengthen their economies.
“When unnecessary barriers restrict the supply of housing and costs increase, then workers, particularly lower-income workers who would benefit the most, are less able to move to high-productivity cities,” said Jason Furman, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, speaking to Politico. “All told, this means slower economic growth.” “It’s important that the president is talking about it,” said Mark Calabria, director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute. “Local restrictions on housing supply are a crucial economic issue. I would say it’s one of the top 10.” A link to the toolkit can be found here.
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Plans for massive South Bronx affordable housing project move forward

A New York City Council committee has approved La Central, a major affordable housing development that heralds change for the South Bronx. Designed by New York–based FXFOWLE, La Central is a one-million-square-foot, 992-unit complex on city-owned vacant land in Melrose that will be built under the auspices of New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development in collaboration with private and nonprofit developers, as well as community-based social services organizations. The five-building complex, organized around a village green–type square, includes retail space, 160 units of supportive housing for homeless veterans and people with HIV/AIDS, plus a plethora of mixed-use projects: Television studios for Bronxnet, a new YMCA, and an urban farm "training garden" operated by GrowNYC. The area is alight with new development: La Central is adjacent to a Bjarke Ingels Group-designed police station, the future home of the 40th Precinct. At a September 8 meeting, the City Council Committee on Land Use approved five land use modifications to allow the development to move forward. The committee sanctioned the designation of an urban development action area for the parcels between Bergen and Brook Avenues; waived open space, yard, height, and setback requirements for the mixed-use development; allowed a C6-2 district to replace existing M1-1 and C4-4 districts; and applied Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) to the lots that will host apartments. The complex will be the largest so far to utilize MIH, which requires developers to provide a certain number of permanently affordable units and is a key part of Mayor de Blasio's plan to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing in the next decade. Despite ostensible support in the council, MIH has faced opposition in practice: Last month, the City Council defeated a privately developed MIH project in Inwood. Nevertheless, hopes for affordable housing development remain high at City Hall: “I believe La Central is a project that can truly help to move the South Bronx forward,” the mayor told the Daily News. The project is expected to be complete in 2017.
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How developers are rebuilding affordable units 20 years after Chicago began to dismantle its public housing

Twenty years into Chicago’s plan to privatize building low-income houses, the effects are varied: Mixed-income, mixed-demographic neighborhoods now exist where dilapidated public housing projects once stood, yet large tracts of vacant land still lie where there were once communities. But between complex financing models and even more complex historical considerations, the face of affordable housing is changing in Chicago. Slowly but surely, areas like Cabrini–Green on the city’s near North Side are developing. Developers like Holsten Real Estate Development Corporation have found a niche in providing mixed-income projects while understanding the intricacies of the affordable housing market.

From the time of its earliest German settlers, the area now known as Cabrini–Green has been a space of displacement, and more often than not, neglect. The area was first a landing site for European immigrants fleeing poverty and famine in their home countries—first German, then Swedish, followed by Irish, and lastly settled by Sicilians, the area was known as Little Hell. The fire spewing stacks of the People’s Gas Light & Coke Co. plant and squalid conditions made the name unfortunately appropriate. By the early 20th century the area became known as Little Sicily, despite few improvements to living conditions.

By the 1940s the newly founded Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) had begun a slum-clearing program. Eventually, there would be few traces of the area’s history. Though few would feel nostalgic for the over-crowded, unplumbed tenements, the complete displacement of the Sicilian community would eventually ring familiar for the area’s future residents.

This first public housing in the area, the Frances Cabrini Row-houses were initially envisioned as an integrated neighborhood of whites and African-Americans. By the time construction was completed in 1962, the area had shifted to be almost completely African American. The following 50 years would see Cabrini–Green become the most notorious, and often misunderstood, public housing project in the country. From the outside, the vision of Cabrini–Green was one of gang violence, sniper shootings, and drug trade. Conversely, the projects were also close-knit communities that knew their built environment was being neglected by the city that had put them there. It should be noted that despite the conditions, Cabrini–Green was likely not as violent or impoverished as Little Sicily, which it replaced. Some cite Little Sicily as having a crime rate 12 times that of the rest of the already extremely violent early 20th century Chicago.

Today, like Little Hell and Little Sicily before them, there is barely a trace of the Cabrini–Green Homes left. Starting in the mid-1990s, the city began a 15-year plan to demolish most of the then-dilapidated projects. The demolition and relocation of the residents were outlined by the city’s $1.5 billion Plan for Transformation and by most accounts, this happened with little input by the nearly 15,000 residents. March 2011 saw the last of the high-rises come down, leaving just a small handful of row houses standing. This new plan would be an experiment in social housing that would replace the projects with mixed-income townhouses across the whole city. Residents were told they would be able to return to the area once new housing was built. However, the slow speed at which new housing has been built and the intense restrictions placed on returning residents means that this has not been particularly successful on many levels.

Holsten has found a way to work within this delicate environment, which many developers avoid at all costs. In fact, the latest Affordable Requirement Ordinance (ARO) allows for developers to pay “in-lieu” fees to avoid including affordable housing in developments that would normally require them. The goal of the ARO is to distribute affordable housing throughout the city to require it in any development that receives a zoning change, city land, or financial assistance. When developers opt to pay the fee, which can reach $175,000 per affordable unit not built, that money goes to a fund that developers like Holsten can use.

Peter Holsten, founder and president of Holsten Real Estate Development, explained how complicated the financing can be for building or renovating buildings to be affordable housing.

“There are non-carry mortgage loans, there are tax credits, historical tax credits, and new market tax credits to build retail in neighborhoods. There are Housing Opportunities & Maintenance for the Elderly (H.O.M.E.) money. There’s Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) money. There are grants from the Federal Home Loan Bank. There is trust-fund money from the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA). There are all sorts of rental subsidies. So your financing could be subsidized or your rent could be subsidized. That’s how you can spend market rate money on renovating a property, but still charge low rents. It is like a Rubik’s Cube.”

Navigating the finances of building affordable housing is only half the story for Holsten. Going back to when he was buying and renovating buildings part-time in the 1970s, Holsten manages all of his own properties. Seeing a need, Holsten also started Holsten Human Capital Development (HHCD), a nonprofit, charitable organization set up to provide resources to promote self-sufficiency and stability to residents.

Recent years have seen Holsten getting involved with more architecturally significant developments. Along with many of the first wave row houses built in Cabrini–Green, Holsten has recently finished Terrace 549. Designed by Chicago-based Landon Bone Baker Architects (LBBA), Terrace 549 is part of a much larger mixed-income development. Rather than the austere modernist concrete towers or generic row houses often associated with public housing in Chicago, Terrace 549 includes large units, colorful finishes, courtyards, balconies, and lush plantings. Along with community resources areas, the building is a mix of 43 market rate, 27 affordable, and 27 public units.

Holsten is also responsible for redeveloping another former CHA site, the Hilliard Homes. The Hilliard Homes broke the mold of public housing when they were first built in 1966; the towers’ architect Bertrand Goldberg believed that public housing should “recognize them [public housing residents], not simply store them.” From the beginning, the campus of 16- and 18-story curving towers was set apart from the rest of the city’s public housing. Though controversial, a strict acceptance policy is credited with making the Hilliard Homes the safest project in the city. A similar policy is now standard in most mixed-income developments. Despite its relative success, Hilliard fell into neglected disrepair with the other CHA projects. Holsten now manages Hilliard and has converted it into a mix-income community.

The complex issues surrounding affordable housing go well beyond architecture. Yet many of those issues are intrinsically linked to the built environment. Even with all of the plans on the boards for areas like Cabrini–Green, the number of units is still staggeringly short of those that were demolished. Conversely, market-rate housing in these new developments rarely has trouble selling. For the first time in Chicago’s history, new neighborhoods are starting out with a diverse mix of demographics and economic situations. Thankfully, now with the help of architects like LBBA and developers like Holsten, architecture is also being factored into the equation. For better or worse, Chicago is once again home to a grand affordable housing experiment.

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In a sharp blow to Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing plan, city council votes “no” on Inwood rezoning

In a sharp rebuke of Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing plan, the city council voted down a zoning change that would have allowed a 15-story development on a prime corner in the northern Manhattan neighborhood of Inwood.

The council’s August 16 vote followed a decision earlier in the day from the Committee on Land Use, which voted against a proposed rezoning brought forth by Washington Square Partners, the developer of Sherman Plaza, a mixed-use structure designed by New York–based Kenneth Park Architects at 4650 Broadway.

Sherman Plaza was slated to be the first individual development zoned for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), a key provision of the mayor’s plan to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade. The development would have offered 20 percent of the units at 40 percent of the area median income (AMI) or 30 percent of units at 80 percent of the AMI, which in 2015 was $86,300 for a family of four. Residents believed that the development’s affordability was not deep enough for the neighborhood.

The community is now mostly zoned R7-2, a moderate density designation that encourages five- to eight-story structures with generous street setbacks. The proposed change would have established a higher density R8X and R9A district plus a C2-4 district within that R8X-R9A district at the corner of Broadway and Sherman Avenue.The City Planning Commission (CPC) approved a proposed rezoning of that site that would set a height limit of 175 feet.

Residents praise the architectural character of Inwood’s art deco apartment buildings. The neighborhood’s features, though, are conditioned by height factor zoning: The FAR is tied to the height of the building, so tower-in-the-park–style buildings have larger setbacks and a higher FAR, while shorter buildings earn a lower FAR and sit closer to the curb.

The project caught heat in the lead-up to the August meeting from residents and civic groups concerned about its impact on the neighborhood. Sherman Plaza was originally conceived as a 23-story, 375,000-square-foot development with 350 units and ground floor retail. In May, Community Board 12 quietly okayed the plans without alerting residents. The Municipal Art Society testified against the development at a City Planning Commission meeting that same month, citing its high affordability thresholds and out-of-context aesthetics. Neighbors were worried that, because of the sloping topography, Sherman Plaza would plunge adjacent Fort Tryon Park into shadow.

Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez represents the neighborhood, and didn’t take a public position on Sherman Plaza until a groundswell of community opposition forced him to come out forcefully against the development the day before the city council meeting. His office released a statement that acknowledged a lack of affordable housing in the district and outlined his position on new development: “[Developments] must be 50 percent affordable, have ample space for community cultural and nonprofit organizations and be supportive of our small businesses, and with key assurances in place that it will go forward as posed [sic].”

At the committee meeting, Rodriguez explained his position before voting down the proposed rezoning: “I was listening to the community for months. It’s important to preserve the landscape of the community.” He added that under Mayor Bloomberg, only 250 units of affordable housing were added to the neighborhood, and that many renters, his household included, receive preferential rents that could increase dramatically if Inwood’s housing market heats up.

Council members from the Committee on Land Use and the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises followed Rodriguez’s lead to vote 15-0 in opposition to the rezoning. Council members traditionally have first pass on developments in their district, and other members defer to the decision of the official from the affected district.

Community activists from an array of local groups in the room cheered the committee’s decision.

Donovan Richards Jr., chair of the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, offered a thinly veiled rebuke of Rodriguez’s position. “It’s very easy to say no, it’s harder to build consensus on land-use issues,” he said.

“The committee has heard countless difficult and controversial applications,” Committee on Land Use chair David Greenfield added. “Our city’s challenge is not if, but how, we grow.Despite the enthusiasm from the chairs [assembled citizens], today is not a happy day.”

Mayor de Blasio, too, chided opponents of Sherman Plaza after the vote. At a Bronx press conference the next day, he lamented that the development could move forward with fewer units and no affordable housing. “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face,” De Blasio told MIH supporters in the council— including Rodriguez—who oppose MIH developments in their neighborhood.

The developers were predictably unhappy. Washington Square Partners issued the following statement post-vote:

“We are disappointed with the decision not to vote in favor of our application to rezone Sherman Plaza but want to thank Community Board 12, Borough President Brewer, the City Planning Commission and the Mayor for working with us over the last two years in support of the project. The project was an opportunity to develop 175 affordable apartments and we are disappointed the local council member did not agree with us.”

A spokesperson for the developer said her client was “surprised by how much attention” Sherman Plaza received, but noted that next steps for the project are under wraps. WNYC reported that Washington Square Partners may move forward with a plan that includes no affordable housing.

Inwood resident and architect Suzanna Malitz applauded the committee’s decision. While Malitz and fellow members of Uptown for Bernie in attendance opposed Sherman Plaza, she supports contextual development east of 10th Avenue along an industrial strip that fronts the Harlem River. There’s “plenty of space” there for denser developments that include affordable housing, she explained.

Rezoning this area is a top priority of the Inwood NYC Neighborhood Plan, a coalition of city agencies, nonprofits, and community groups working through the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) to envision the neighborhood’s future growth, with an eye towards developing the largely industrial areas east of 10th Avenue. Although the plan’s study area extends north from Dyckman Street and doesn’t include Sherman Plaza, if realized, its key provisions will most likely affect surrounding areas, the Bronx included.

New York–based Studio V collaborated with NYCEDC to make the vision more tangible. “Inwood is extraordinary. It has unique conditions—the grid shifts between the east and west sides, it’s bounded by two rivers, and has old growth forests in Inwood Hill Park. There’s a huge opportunity to develop the waterfront along the Harlem River and Sherman Creek, so the area goes from being an edge to being a center,” said Jay Valgora, Studio V’s founding principal. The firm’s renderings show an array of towers that could be developed on both banks of the Harlem River if the east side is upzoned. The east side can support greater density without cutting into the neighborhood’s beloved deco fabric, Valgora explained. 

Cheramie Mondesire attended NYCEDC-led meeting but was dissatisfied with the proceedings. At the second meeting she attended “it was all scripted. They couldn’t answer questions that were not on the script.” The Metropolitan Council on Housing was there to organize residents, and Mondersire, who has lived in the neighborhood for 42 years, attended their meetings to learn how MIH could be applied in Inwood. She agreed that the area east of 10th Avenue would be better suited for dense development than the middle of the neighborhood’s fabric.

Pat Courtney of Inwood Preservation added that the transportation infrastructure is not equipped to serve an influx of new residents, especially with a lack of local bus routes. “Thecommunity is beautiful, well-coordinated, and well-planned. New development should be scaled to existing buildings.”

State assemblymember Guillermo Linares opposed Sherman Plaza, noting that developments like these accelerate the process of gentrification. “You see what happened in lower Manhattan and Williamsburg. In my district, there’s a high concentration of low and middle-income families who cannot afford the housing that’s being built.” Linares cited Sherman Creek as a potential area for “100 percent affordable housing” that includes ground floor retail to enliven the streetscape.