Posts tagged with "Affordable Housing":

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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.

 
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Giant affordable housing development planned for Coney Island Boardwalk

Georgica Green Ventures and Concern for Independent Living are bringing affordable housing to the Coney Island Boardwalk. New York–based Stephen B. Jacobs Group is the architect for the project. Phase One of Surf Vets Place will add 135 units and 7,000 square feet of commercial space to a 170,000-square-foot parcel at the corner of West 21st Street and Surf Avenue. Residents will be steps away from the beach, and walking distance from the Brooklyn Cyclones stadium and Luna Park. Plans filed in April indicate that 52 of the apartments will be available to households earning 60 percent of the area median income, which in 2015 was $86,300 for a family of four, while 82 apartments will be reserved for homeless veterans. The developers will build a new street, Ocean Way, to connect West 20th and West 21st streets at midblock, and all of the buildings in the development will face onto shared courtyards. The listings page highlights standard amenities, including a fitness center, rooftop terrace, laundry room, and bike storage. Financing documents suggest that the development is projected to cost $68.8 million; construction on the first phase is expected to be complete by 2018. Land around the former amusement park was rezoned for commercial and residential development in 2009. Renderings suggest that buildings up to 25 stories tall will be added at later stages of Surf Vets Place, but when The Architect's Newspaper reached out to CityRealty for comment, no employees were available to speak about the project.
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East Harlem set to lose 25 percent of affordable housing stock, Regional Plan Association says

A new report from the Regional Plan Association (RPA) suggests that East Harlem may lose one-quarter of its affordable housing stock. The Manhattan neighborhood has one of the highest concentrations of affordable housing, and has long been a haven for people who could not rent or own in other neighborhoods because of institutionalized discrimination. The neighborhood is becoming less welcoming, however, especially to low-income New Yorkers: Between now and 2040, Harlem could lose between 200 and 500 units of rent-stabilized and public (NYCHA) housing per year. Right now, there are an estimated 56,000 affordable units in the neighborhood. The study, "Preserving Affordable Housing in East Harlem," was produced with long-time collaborator Community Board 11. Any new affordable housing, the report concludes, should be made permanently affordable by "restructuring existing programs, or supporting community and public ownership models including community land trusts, land lease agreements and expanded public housing." The neighborhood is slated for rezoning under Mayor de Blasio's intensive plan to create or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade. Unlike East New York, Brooklyn, the first neighborhood to undergo rezoning under de Blasio's plan, East Harlem has gentrified palpably in recent years: When the New York Times includes your neighborhood on its "next-hottest" list, some say widespread residential displacement is not far behind. Using the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development's (HPD) Office of Asset and Property Management, the city has managed to lengthen individual buildings' affordability reactively, though the process would need to be restructured so buildings are designated permanently affordable as a matter of course. The East Harlem Neighborhood Plan coalition, which includes Community Voices Heard, CB 11, and the office of New York City Council Speaker (and district representative) Melissa Mark-Viverito, incorporated RPA's work into their plan, which The Architect's Newspaper covered when it was revealed last fall.
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With Kaine pick, does Clinton become the “urbanism candidate?”

Presumptive Democratic nominee for President Hillary Clinton’s running mate, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, has been widely described as a “boring” choice in the media. And even though the presumptive nominee herself remarked to the New York Times, “I love that about him,” when asked about her excitement-challenged running mate, for advocates of fair housing reform and, by extension, urbanists, Kaine’s selection is due to generate a bit of interest on the campaign trail. Does Clinton's selection make her the "urbanism candidate" of 2016? Signs in Kaine's history point to yes and after the Republican party released a starkly anti-urban party platform last week, his selection could not come at a better time. The Virginia Senator Kaine’s career is rooted in his advocacy for fair housing policies, as reflected by his long-standing relationship with Virginia-based, fair-housing advocates Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia (HOME) and the fact that fair housing cases made up a reported 75 percent of his workload when he worked as an attorney. According to a press release put out by HOME, Kaine’s law career began in 1984 when he represented a plaintiff on behalf of the non-profit who had been turned away from an apartment application due to her race. Regarding the case, Kaine is quoted in the press release as saying, “When someone is turned away in that aspect of their life, trying to find a place to live, what a powerful difference it makes, and it made a huge impression on me in that first case.” Kaine was also at the helm of a landmark 1996 case involving the Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company’s systematic and intentionally discriminatory insurance practices in urban neighborhoods, winning a record $100 million settlement that, after appeal and lengthy delays, was finally settled for $17.5 million in 2000. Kaine’s addition to the Democratic ticket begs the question, will having a fair-housing advocate on the ballot herald a new emphasis on urban issues? For a campaign so far dominated by abstract discussions of income inequality and “law and order,” as well as efforts to undermine institutionalized anti-blackness, political discussions thus far have conspicuously excluded nuts and bolts approaches to addressing urban poverty like increasing the supply of affordable housing, expanding public transportation infrastructure, and rectifying the deeply troubling historical legacies resulting from racist urban planning and real estate ideologies of the 20th century. Clinton’s selection of Kaine comes as the Republican Party released a fiercely anti-urban party platform at its convention last week. The platform, aside from seeking to keep the 23 year old federal gas tax rate unchanged in an era of very low gas prices and crumbling infrastructure, also advocates for a prohibition on use of federal gas tax revenue on mass transit projects, citing public transit as an “inherently local affair that serves only a small portion of the population concentrated in six big cities.” The Republican platform also takes issue with the new United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) plan to increase access to access to Section 8 housing vouchers in middle- and upper-income neighborhoods. The so-called “Affirmatively Further Fair Housing” (AFFH) program aims to institutionalize research conducted by Harvard economist Raj Chetty, who argues extricating children from impoverished neighborhoods early on in life increases their earning potential and life prospects exponentially as adults. The program offers families who qualify for Section 8 vouchers increased funding to move into more economically successful neighborhoods. Coupled with a new mandate by HUD that considers denial of housing on the basis of a criminal record an unfair practice, HUD’s latest initiatives under Secretary Julian Castro have have placed key urban issues like access to affordable housing and an emphasis on de-segregation at the center of the country’s ongoing anti-blackness debate. Intentionally ignorant of redlining policies, like those Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company was found guilty of perpetuating in the Kaine case, restrictive covenants, and federally-backed mortgage programs mid-century whites used to concentrate minorities and poverty in urban centers, the Republican platform refers to HUD’s initiatives as a form of “social engineering.” HUD, on the other hand, views its new initiatives as upholding the mantle of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 to “take actions to address segregation and related barriers for groups with characteristics protected by the Act, as often reflected in racially or ethnically concentrated areas of poverty.” Kaine’s impact on the campaign’s discourse was apparent at the ticket’s first joint rally on Saturday, where Clinton lauded Kaine’s record at the expense of their opponent, stating, “While Tim was taking on housing discrimination and homelessness, Donald Trump was denying apartments to people who were African American,” citing a 1973 housing discrimination suit brought against Trump by the United States Department of Justice. We will have to wait and see if this approach yields a greater emphasis on other urban issues as the campaign heads towards Election Day.
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Brooklyn and the Bronx will host housing developments aimed at LGBT seniors

Two housing developments built for LGBT seniors are in the works in Brooklyn and the Bronx. The Ingersoll Senior Residences and the Crotona Senior Residences will be the first of their kind in New York City. Both buildings will have Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) Centers that will offer support for residents. These buildings will be available to all seniors who meet certain income eligibility requirements. However, as LGBT people are not specifically protected from discrimination under the Fair Housing Act, the Ingersoll and Crotona residences are taking a conscious initiative to be inclusive. Philadelphia and other cities have already set up housing developments for LGBT seniors. SAGE started the National LGBT Elder Housing Initiative in 2014; the organization cites a study that found almost half of elder same-sex couples experienced some kind of discriminatory treatment when looking for housing in senior living facilities. SAGE has also worked to create Innovative Senior Centers across the city, with locations in the Bronx, Harlem, Staten Island (in collaboration with the Pride Center of Staten Island) Chelsea, and Brooklyn (with GRIOT Circle), according to Real Estate Weekly. The Ingersoll Senior Residences in Fort Greene will the biggest LGBT-welcoming senior housing community in the country, with 145 affordable housing units. These units are much needed in a neighborhood with a median rent of almost $3,000 a month. Bisnow reports that the project is expected to cost $47 million, and will be designed by Marvel Architects. Crotona Senior Residences will be located in Crotona Park North in the Bronx. Magnusson Architecture and Planning will design the building with 82 units and an expected cost of $38.4 million. SAGE expects to open both residences in summer 2019.
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This Silicon Valley startup is building a brand-new city from the ground up

Y Combinator, the Silicon Valley–based business accelerator and investment firm that backed Airbnb and Dropbox, has turned its attention towards an ambitious project that most of us only dream about during a SimCity gaming binge. Y Combinator's nonprofit division, YC Research, is inviting collaborators to research ways to build a more affordable, legible city. The project intends to find ways to reduce a household's housing expenses by 90 percent and write a full book of city code that's less than 100 pages long. The ultimate plan, Y Combinator partner Adora Cheung and president Sam Altman said, is to produce a real city to demonstrate these principles in practice. The project will be a stage for testing ideas in urban policy and for expanding the scope of Y Combinator. Although the company hasn't chosen a location yet, the firm will solicit proposals for streamlined construction, an advanced power, driverless cars (this is Silicon Valley, of course), and smarter zoning and property law. Altman states that YC Research will ultimately have an annual budget of over $100 million. "The central theme is to work on things that we need for the successful evolution of humanity," he told Bloomberg Technology. Why would a firm that funded Airbnb, the bête noire of housing activists, be interested in affordability? Altman strenuously denies that Y Combinator's new project is meant to soften the image of the tech industry, whose thousands of highly-paid Silicon Valley workers, many critics contend, are driving up the cost of housing in the Bay Area. He maintains that Y Combinator is applying its "innovation model" to a pressing urban issue. Interested? Initial applications are due July 30.
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Mayor Eric Garcetti aims to dedicate $138 million in funding to combat homelessness in L.A.

Estimates for 2015 released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority put Los Angeles County’s homeless population at 44,359 individuals, with 17,687 of the 25,686 homeless residents of the City of Los Angeles being completely unsheltered. On April 20, in what is being referred to as a call to arms across the city, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that he had appropriated $138 million in funding aimed at addressing some of the needs of this vulnerable and marginalized population. A portion of the new funds—$86 million—is earmarked for the development of permanent affordable housing.

Though the sum is vast, there are serious concerns regarding the viability of the proposal’s funding sources. Garcetti’s budget calls for the majority of the funds to be raised from linkage fees paid by developers, a set of fees that are not currently collected by the city. Should the L.A. City Council approve the mayor’s budget, it will have to instate new linkage fees as well. Simultaneously, homeless-relief advocates consider the $138 million sum a pittance of what is needed to seriously address the area’s entrenched homelessness issues, with many calling for a November ballot initiative to establish a permanent fund for the cause. Additionally in this election year, homelessness is being seen more widely as a phenomenon directly related to what some see as a rise in income inequality and endemic wage stagnation.

Amid this context, the impact of this new funding for affordable and supportive housing could be vast. The City of L.A. is planning to use the sale or redevelopment of several surplus properties it holds to fund some of the construction of new affordable housing. L.A.’s Skid Row Housing Trust (SRHT), a nonprofit established in 1989 to build permanent affordable housing for low-income Angelenos, will likely be one of the organizations to lead the efforts in increasing the city’s affordable-housing stock. And, with recently completed projects by high-caliber area firms like Michael Maltzan Architecture, Brooks + Scarpa Architects, and Killefer Flammang Architects, SRHT is poised to lead the campaign to win the hearts, minds, and pockets of the city’s many powerful, moneyed interests resistant to homeless housing in their neighborhoods. Regarding the recently completed Brooks + Scarpa SIX project, SRHT CEO Mike Alvidrez remarked, “We’ve tried to showcase the architect’s talents. Good design is an integral part of all the work that we do.” He went on to say, “The city, county, and state have always made dollars available for affordable housing, but at too small a scale. [SRHT’s projects have shown that] high-quality affordable housing can be attractive and be seen as a valuable aesthetic contribution to the communities in which they are developed. Hopefully [good design] will assuage some of the concerns people have; there’s no reason well-designed buildings and housing for homeless people across L.A. can’t coexist.”

After AN contributor Peter Zellner wrote a blistering critique of L.A.’s response to the homelessness crisis, the city’s American Institute of Architects chapter got involved by convening a congress aimed at bringing together designers, affordable-housing leaders, and politicians around homelessness issues. Adding to his critique, Zellner said, “Architects and designers have to become more involved politically in order to raise awareness. It would be incumbent upon architects to think of forms of urbanism that integrate approaches for housing the homeless and articulate a viable alternate vision [for L.A.’s future] that is dense, vertical, and integrated. [We can] lead through design.”

The congress, called Design for Dignity, took place on May 6 and featured panel discussions and lectures from advocates working across the city, from the streets of Skid Row to the corridors of City Hall. Regarding the role design can play in addressing the homelessness crisis, congress participant, architect, and homeless-relief advocate Michael Lehrer said, “We have to create places that are nurturing and safe—that’s important. It’s also critical the response provides a range of types of inhabitation. Some of these informal communities are old and have deep social structures: How do you provide a wholesome existence and place and still provide space for individuals who are not fully interested in being a part of the social armature?”

With the state of California recently announcing a $2 billion plan to fund affordable housing for mentally ill citizens living on the streets statewide and the county of Los Angeles soon to put forth a plan of its own, one wonders if these efforts might finally begin to reverse the fortunes of tens of thousands of Los Angeles’s residents.

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Groundbreaking for Bronx mixed-use affordable housing development

Before the Memorial Day weekend, city officials posed with shovels for the groundbreaking of Tremont Renaissance, a long-planned affordable housing development in East Tremont, the Bronx. The groundbreaking for the 265-unit, mixed income structure at Webster and East Tremont avenues is the latest spate of affordable housing development in the northernmost borough. The project is part of de Blasio's plan to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next ten years: A little less than half of the apartments will be reserved for low-income families, with the rental floor for three-bedrooms set at $1,224 per month. Units for middle-income households will be available to those making up to $97,920 for a family of three. The 12-story building will include 40,000 square feet of street-level retail, as well as a fitness center, play space for children, an internet lounge, a yoga/dance studio, and landscaped roof terraces. The site was formerly home to a 1930s bank, and the bank's facade will be incorporated into the building's lobby. “Even though thousands of new housing units have been built in the Bronx, our community board, and other community districts remain with a shortage of affordable rental housing and quality retail space,” noted Ivine Galarza, district manager of Community Board 6, in a statement. “This development will definitely stand out as a good example of creating housing that is affordable for all types of families in the heart of our borough.” Bronx–based Mastermind Development is behind the $117.7 million project, in collaboration with the New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC) and Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) One block over, Mastermind is also developing adjacent 4215 Park Avenue, a 256-unit, mixed-use development, as part of a suite of parcels it owns in the neighborhood. Over 60 of the units in this development will be categorized as Inclusionary Housing.
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State to city: No towers in BK Bridge Park. City: “We’re building anyway”

New York State: "There may be no new towers in Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 6, sorry." New York City: “We’re building them anyway.”

State officials announced this week that, due to investigations into Mayor Bill de Blasio's alleged pay-to-play deals with developers, the two residential towers (which included a preschool and affordable housing) planned for the waterside park will not likely be moving forward. If the city has its way, though, the towers will move ahead.

Empire State Development, New York State's primary economic development agency, withdrew support for the agreement, citing potential issues with the developers of the apartment building. State officials noted that the lead developer, RAL Development Services, made a $10,000 contribution in May 2015 to the Campaign for One New York, a nonprofit that supports the mayor's initiatives, like universal pre-K. RAL and co-developer Oliver’s Realty Group were selected from 14 proposals submitted to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, the nonprofit responsible for operating the park, at the end of last June.

Jonah Bruno, a spokesman for Empire State Development, said: “We will not move forward with any changes until we are fully confident that all newly raised concerns have been addressed,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

The city was surprised—stunned, even—by the state's about-face, calling the reasons for the reversal "completely specious."

As early as late last week, state and city officials had reached an agreement for the space adjacent to the East River, despite an undercurrent of community opposition. It is possible that the deal can be salvaged if the community's concerns around additional development in the park, and the main developer issue, can be resolved to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.

Judi Francis, president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund, told WSJ that she hoped New York State would “'do the right thing' and reject the proposed changes 'and all housing on Pier 6.'”

Just hours later, however, The New York Times reported that the city intends to move ahead with the towers. “We’re going forward anyway,” said Alicia Glen, the deputy mayor for housing and economic development, to the Times on Tuesday. “We stand by the rationale for the project. It puts the park in a better position to address its maritime and capital needs. And we have an obligation to build affordable housing, particularly in these expensive and rapidly changing neighborhoods.” Glen is also chairwoman of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation.

The park is supposed to self-finance with development like the proposed towers: A 12-story building with 188 apartments (131 affordable) and a 26-story market-rate structure with of 116 condos, designed by ODA. The developer will pay the city $98 million, plus a small annual rent, for the privilege of building on the property.

Councilman Stephen Levin and State Senator Daniel L. Squadron, two of the district's representatives, note that to build on Pier 6, the city still needs state approval for the amendment to the project plan.