Posts tagged with "Affordable Housing":

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Colorado proposes to build affordable housing with legal marijuana tax revenues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Facebook to invest $20 million in affordable housing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.