Posts tagged with "Affordable Housing":

Detroit’s Brewster-Douglass housing projects move one step closer to redevelopment

The site of Detroit’s former Brewster-Douglass public housing may soon be redeveloped into a massive mixed-use project. A group of developers, including Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock Real Estate Development, has been recommended by a committee composed of the Detroit Planning & Development Department, the city's Housing & Revitalization department, and the Detroit Housing Commission. The recommendation of the development team, known as Choice Detroit, will now go to the City Council. If approved by the city council, the project will be submitted for a federal grant of $30 million as part of the Choice Neighborhoods Grant program. The Brewster-Douglass public housing projects are made up of two sites adjacent to each other in the Brush Park and Eastern Market neighborhoods. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt broke ground for the projects in 1935. Envisioned as housing for the “working poor,” for much of their history one resident per unit needed to be employed. At its height 8,000 to 10,000 residents lived in the Brewster Douglass projects. Many of Detroit’s most notable celebrities once lived in the projects, including Diana Ross and Smokey Robinson. By the 1970’s the buildings had begun to fall in to major disrepair, and by 1991 demolition began on the low-rise portions. Demolition as completed in August, 2014. As reported by the Detroit Free Press, if approved, the Choice Detroit team will develop a master plan that could include affordable housing, park space, new streets, commercial space, community support services, and a federally qualified health center. The city’s original request for qualifications called for 500 mix-income units, 40 units per acre, and respect for the history of the area and "the rich African-American heritage in the city." Dan Gilbert, the founder and CEO of Quicken Loans, and owner of multiple professional sports teams, is behind some of Detroit’s largest developments. These include a new building at the former site of the J.L. Hudson department store in Downtown Detroit. That proposed building is designed by New York-based SHoP. The other members of the Choice Detroit development team include Columbia, Maryland-based developer Enterprise Community Partners, Columbus, Ohio, and Pittsburgh-based KBK Enterprises, and Ginosko Development Co., based in the Detroit suburb of Novi.

How the other half lives: Two housing-minded artists invite the public to live in luxury or affordable NYC apartments

In a city where "how much is your rent?" is a perfectly acceptable icebreaker, it's second nature to look into the windows of a NYCHA high-rise, or though the scaffolding of an under-construction luxury tower, and wonder, "what's it like to live there?" A new public art project initiated by Jennifer Dalton and William Powhida lets participants satisfy their voyeurism through a residency series, short-term stays in sample New York City "affordable" and "luxury" units. Powhida and Dalton have worked together since 2008, although MONTH2MONTH is their first collaboration since 2012. Produced by social justice nonprofit More Art, MONTH2MONTH's 4-day residencies are augmented by a monthlong calendar of public events that invite housing activists, politicians, artists, "doormen, financial journalists, and other stakeholders" to discuss how class, wealth, and race intersect to affect the ability of different groups to live in New York. With affordable housing now tied to luxury development, some events will interrogate how recently passed zoning changes stand to reshape neighborhood density and residential composition, while others will focus on art's uneasy relationship with the real estate interests, gentrification, and monied class that supports artistic production in New York. Sample events include an arch champagne tasting with finance writer Felix Salmon that addresses the "wide range" of housing contexts in New York (though presumably the discussion skews towards the Sherman McCoys of this world), as well as an interactive session around displacement with artist/activist Betty Yu. In addition to formal events, residents/participants will co-mingle with members of the public in the affordable and luxury apartments to share dinner, make art, sing karaoke, and create semi-public community in private spaces. The first happening, a housewarming party, is this Saturday, May 7. See MONTH2MONTH's full lineup of events here.

Berlin restricts Airbnb to safeguard affordable housing

Berlin, the capital of Germany, has become one Europe's hottest city destinations of late. This may sound obvious, except when you consider that in the space of eight years, the city saw a increase of 13 million overnight visitors, totaling 30.2 million in 2015. As a result, many local residents sought to cash in on the tourism bandwagon: they list their properties through the popular renting site, Airbnb, as well as other online platforms. During this period, rents in Berlin rose 56 percent (from 2009-2014). While this may be good news for those renting their property, German authorities have been worried that the process is putting the supply of housing—especially affordable housing—in jeopardy. To combat the impending (or as some would argue, ongoing) housing crisis, the Zweckentfremdungsverbot law was introduced in 2014 and lasted for two years. Translating directly to "Misappropriation ban," the law prohibited the short-term let of dwellings to tourists who didn't have a city permit. Breach of the law resulted in a fine of up to $115,200. That two-year period however, as of April 30 2016, has come to an end. Now, a much tougher line has been taken meaning that those who don't live in the city can only rent out rooms via an online service and not the entire apartment. Berlin’s head of urban development, Andreas Geisel, described the move as as “a necessary and sensible instrument against the housing shortage in Berlin….I am absolutely determined to return such misappropriated apartments to the people of Berlin and to newcomers.” City authorities are also calling on the “civic spirit” of residents, requesting that they tip-off officials of any suspected breaches of the law. The policy, so far, has seen Airbnb listings drop dramatically by 40 percent in the last month alone. Not everyone has welcomed the change though. Speaking anonymously in The Guardian, a 48-year-old woman said that the law was bowing the hotel industry while forcing Berliners to foot the bill of its failed housing policy. She also remarked that the request from officials to act as informants was a poor decision. “In Germany, of all places, maybe we should reconsider this kind of thing," she said.
Wimdu, an online renting portal similar to Airbnb meanwhile has filed a lawsuit, claiming that the new law breaches the constitution of Berlin. The owners of 9Flats (also similar) also spoke out. “We face a law in Berlin that would drive us into bankruptcy,” they argued. Whether or not such regulation spreads across the continent, or even across the Atlantic however, remains to be seen. In New York though, city officials may be under pressure to emulate those in Berlin as a report released two weeks ago highlighted a substantial 78 percent increase of rents under Airbnb in New York City's predominantly African American neighbourhoods. According to The Independent, the report outlined how rents (including "private rooms, shared spaces or full units") increased by 35 percent across the city, but that "black neighbourhoods, there was a 60 per cent increase". Of these listings, 42 percent (of the above 60 percent) were for whole apartments, thus breaking state state law that bans full-unit rentals for under 30 days.
In response to the law enforced in Berlin, Airbnb spokesman Julian Trautwein said: "Berliners want clear and simple rules for home sharing, so they can continue to share their own home with guests. We will continue to encourage Berlin policy-makers to listen to their citizens and to follow the example of other big cities such as Paris, London, Amsterdam or Hamburg and create new, clear rules for normal people who are sharing their own homes."

NYC City Council approves neighborhood-wide zoning changes for Brooklyn’s East New York

East New York is officially the first neighborhood under de Blasio to be totally rezoned. Yesterday, the New York City Council approved the East New York Community Plan (ENYCP) by a 45-1 margin. Because the ENYCP abides by the mayor's just-passed affordable housing and zoning initiatives, the eastern Brooklyn neighborhood is viewed by many as the first proving ground for the mayor's ambitious reforms. The primary goals of the plan are to create more affordable housing and spur economic development. The ENYCP is part of Housing New York, the mayor's initiative to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing. ENYCP covers 190 blocks and is the first plan to apply Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), a suite of new zoning rules that require a certain percentage of new housing be designated as permanently affordable. In East New York, however, affordability would go deeper than MIH minimum thresholds: NYC Department of Housing, Preservation and Development (HPD) says that any project it backs in the neighborhood will be entirely affordable. Units will be available to families making between 30 and 90 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI): $23,350 to $69,930 for a three-person household, respectively. 1,200 apartments will be constructed over the next two years, and HPD anticipates that more than half of the approximately 7,000 units developed in the neighborhood over the next decade will be permanently affordable. Lured by new housing, the city estimates that more than 19,000 new residents could move to the neighborhood in the next 15 years. The plan that sailed through the City Planning Commission, the penultimate approval body, in late February is slightly different than the one that the council passed. The council's modifications added more protections for displacement of current residents, tenant protections from harassment, promises to secure housing for the homeless, and additional community services like job skills training. The city will also spend $267 million on infrastructure improvements, including a new park and school.  

Lake and Bake

Having built over 10,000 units in the San Francisco Bay Area—6,000 of which have been affordable housing—David Baker Architects is a leader in navigating the complex public-private partnerships necessary to build affordable housing today. The San Francisco firm, founded in 1982, recently completed work on Lakeside Senior Apartments, a compact, 91-unit, .66-acre complex located on the edge of Oakland’s Chinatown neighborhood. The project adds an additional 91 domiciles to the nearly 757 affordable units built in the region in 2014, as reported by San Francisco’s Planning Department. Designed to maintain neighbors’ vistas of the surrounding landscapes, Lakeside was constructed to house very-low-income and special-needs seniors and includes 32 units set aside to house formerly homeless seniors. Residents must be at least 55 years of age to live in the apartments and have a household annual income no higher than 50 percent of the area median income. The housing complex, located at the corner of East 15th Street and 2nd Avenue, is organized as a grouping of two parallel masses that frame a central courtyard. The street-facing courtyard opens toward the west and is bisected by a slender perpendicular bridge that cuts across the L-shaped site, connecting the two apartment blocks. The courtyard spaces are organized as a rectilinear tapestry of grasses, Cor-ten steel, and concrete flooring, where residents can exercise and socialize. Ground-level community programs take place within a mostly unadorned board-formed concrete plinth, with overhanging housing above. The buildings’ articulated facades are clad in perforated metal panels and stucco, as well as vertical and horizontal louvers along east and west exposures. Deeply recessed balconies overlook both street-side and interior spaces, while ground-level residences along 2nd Avenue open directly onto the street with porches. The building’s ample lobbies feature spare, exposed concrete walls and light-colored wood paneling, and the buildings’ extra-wide corridors are equipped with handrails. Laundry rooms are located on each floor, surrounded by seating areas that open into the public spaces, while the aforementioned courtyard bridge features sunny lounges where residents can rest, gather, and socialize outside of their units. With sweeping vistas of nearby Lake Merritt, each volume’s fifth floor includes a gamut of wellness-focused rooftop community spaces, including a shared garden and a community room with kitchen. “The community garden is beautiful and actually very productive. The complex has really great breakout spaces—the courtyards and community rooms—where people can pause. That’s especially important for seniors,” principal David Baker said.

Munich Residents Demand Affordable Housing Replace Parking Spaces

With major cities running short on affordable housing, local residents have adopted unique measures to air their grievances. In New York, the Brooklyn Anti-Gentrification Network (BAN) held a sign outside a real estate summit in Brooklyn last year, asking car-driving attendees to honk if the rent was "too high." Earlier this year, students at the University of Cape Town in South Africa erected an iron shack on campus to decry the lack of housing available to poor students around the city. For people living in Munich, the solution was simple but proactive. Leerstand089, a citizen group in the city, listed all vacant parking spaces to shame the authorities into building more affordable housing for residents. The plan worked, with a 120-unit apartment complex now slated to replace a parking lot once used at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The area is surrounded by large gardens with trees, a modest soccer field, and a swimming pool. To prevent the rent prices from rising, the apartments will be economically built to keep them within Germany's rent stabilization threshold. Leerstand089, which stands for vacancy and Munich's area code, has notched up several other successes with a number of buildings being earmarked as housing sites. The most recent is a 5,700-square-foot building now designated as a public housing cooperative that will contain 11 rental apartments. The group's basic action plan encourages everyday citizens to call out neglected buildings. If the building is being left unattended, they will report it to the city so it can be put to better use.

Oakland Misses Affordable Housing Opportunity

More people are living in urban areas. We all know younger millennials are choosing more urban lifestyles and rents are rising. Much has been written about micro-housing, from Seattle to New York’s Carmel Place by nArchitects. Will these types of units help make housing more affordable? The issue of housing in urban centers—especially affordable housing—is a great and complex issue. On the west coast, cities like L.A. and San Francisco have a notorious shortage. Seattle, dealing with rapid growth, is trying to do things a little differently. Mayor Murray has launched the Housing and Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA), with an action plan that proposes rethinking density upzoning by 16 percent of Seattle and building 20,000 affordable housing units in the next ten years through public and private funding. Sometimes, though, it seems two steps forward means one step back. In California this Tuesday, Oakland’s City Council approved market-rate housing on a parcel of publicly owned land near Lake Merritt in a 6-1 vote. This could allow a developer to build a luxury condo on the site. The vote shot down an alternative, the E. 12th Street People’s Proposal, which called for a different use for the land—affordable and mixed housing. The E. 12th Street proposal called for 133 units, housing just over 700 people. The proposal put the cost of development at a little over $46,000,000, with funding that could have come from a mix of sources including state and federal grants.

Renzo Piano’s embattled “Paddington Pole” tower heads back to the drawing board

Those who campaigned against Renzo Piano's cylindrical skyscraper in Paddington, London,  are celebrating a victory now that plans for the tower have been withdrawn from planning. The tower, dubbed the "Paddington Pole," was set to top out 834 feet (72 floors) and rub shoulders with the Cheesegrater (The Leadenhall Building by Richard Rogers). Developer Sellar Property Group, which also worked with Piano on the Shard skyscraper, claimed the cylindrical tower would change the way Paddington is viewed, with the public no longer seeing the area as a place to catch a train to the west country or visit someone at St. Mary’s Hospital. However, Sellar Property Group was accused by residents of attempting to push the scheme through planning too quickly. Now, according to BDonline, founder Irvine Sellar has said that he considered concerns regarding “the height and impact of the tower element of the scheme on the local area.” This came after some “high level discussions” (no pun intended) with the leader and deputy leader of Westminster city council addressing the height issues. Sellar is supposedly keen to work with Piano on a revised design. https://twitter.com/CampaignSkyline/status/693391588165316608/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw Sellar went on to note that the revisions “will bring forward an amended scheme that will still deliver all the substantial benefits including the significant investment in infrastructure and social housing.” The 830-foot-tall scheme by Piano—who had previously said the only way to regenerate the area was to build a tall tower—had attracted fierce opposition with architects Terry Farrell and Ed Jones among hundreds who posted comments on the application. An online petition has attracted more than 1,800 signatures. Aside from opposition from architect Terry Farrell and local MP Karen Buck, one of the more prominent movements against the "Paddington Pole" was Historic England. “Tall buildings can be exciting and useful. But if they are poorly-designed, or in the wrong place, they can really harm our cities," Historic England CEO Duncan Wilson told the Guardian. "We trust that the revised plans for Paddington Place will take the area’s unique character into account.” “London’s skyline is unique, iconic and loved. It has to be managed sensitively and with proper planning,” he added. “Tall buildings can be exciting and useful, but if they are poorly designed, or in the wrong place, they can really harm our cities. We trust that the revised plans for Paddington Place will take the area’s unique character into account.” The proposal had promised a new Bakerloo line ticket hall for at Paddington station, offices, restaurants, some 330 homes and a sky garden. It had the backing of Network Rail, Transport for London, St Mary’s Hospital, the NHS, and the Greater London Assembly. Still, Philippa Roe, leader of Westminster council, was pleased at the decision to withdraw plans. “This is a very positive step and will allow time for us all to bring forward a development that enjoys broader community support and that we jointly believe will deliver enormous benefits to Westminster and London," she told the Guardian. "We remain committed to ensuring that all the benefits of the original scheme are retained in the revised plans.”

The scaffolding comes off Carmel Place, New York’s first modular micro-apartment building

The scaffolding just came off of Carmel Place, the 10-story, 55-unit micro-apartment building designed by Brooklyn-based nARCHITECTS. The project, formerly known as My Micro NY, has diminutive units designed to serve the "small household population." The project sits at One Mount Carmel Place, a looping side street boxed in between 28th Street, First Avenue, 27th Street, and Second Avenue in Kips Bay, Manhattan. The towers are vertically striped in four shades of grey brick (as seen in the renderings below), though in some of Field Condition's photographs the brick takes on a brownish hue. The tower is constructed of 92 modular units, which were themselves built in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The massing somewhat reference's BIG's Two World Trade Center, whose irregularly stacked upper stores are smaller-but-wider to accommodate terraces. The interiors are meant to make the Lilliputian apartments feel as spacious as possible. The ceilings are nine-and-a-half feet tall, and exterior doors slide, rather than swing. Seventy cubic feet of storage spaces over the bathrooms and 70-square-foot kitchens with extra fold-out counter space reduce clutter and allow for full scale movement in the space. Juliet balconies, with a comparatively generous 63 square feet of floor area, allow access to the outdoors. Each of the six different types of units, ranging in size from 273 to 360 square feet, come equipped with interior furnishings. The architects collaborated with New York–based Resource Furniture on the built-ins (like the bed-couch), and other furnishings from Stage 3 Properties through Ollie. Ollie decorates rental apartments, organizes community events in-building, and offers amenities packages that include housekeeping and wifi. Carmel Place offers a standard range of amenities: bike storage, lounge, fitness room, public roof terrace, and community room. 525 square feet of ground-floor retail, plus the glassed-in, street-facing gym, anchors the development to the outside. Here as everywhere, competition for the building's affordable units is intense, with 60,000 applications submitted for the 14 apartments. All tenants could be moving in as early as March 2016.  

Woody and The Donald

Here is a story to file under the Republican presidential primary, celebrity, radical American politics, and affordable housing policies in New York City. The Conversation writer Will Kaufman reports that the "This Land is Your Land" folk singer Woody Guthrie lived in Federal Housing Authority–financed housing in Coney Island's Beach Haven. Those residences were constructed by non other than Fred Trump, Donald’s father. Guthrie despised his landlord, the elder Trump, and wrote several ditties (a reprise of his "I Ain’t Got No Home") about him:

Beach Haven ain’t my home! 
I just cain’t pay this rent! 
My money’s down the drain! 
And my soul is badly bent! 
Beach Haven looks like heaven 
Where no black ones come to roam! 
No, no, no! Old Man Trump! 
Old Beach Haven ain’t my home! Trump’s involvement with and creation of (racially exclusive) affordable Beach Haven housing for the hundreds of thousands of returning servicemen to New York after World War II is a sordid tale. Kaufman unearthed the story after going through the Guthrie archive in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He reports that “when the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) finally stepped in to issue federal loans and subsidies for urban apartment blocks, one of the first developers in line, with his eye on the main chance, was Fred Trump. He made a fortune not only through the construction of public housing projects but also through collecting the rents on them." Its a fascinating story of housing policy in New York that becomes more pointed “in the wake of Donald Trump, who says, 'My legacy has its roots in my father’s legacy.'” (via Gawker)

Affordable housing tenants are renting out units on Airbnb. What’s wrong with that?

On Tuesday, the LIC Post reported that some residents who received units through the affordable housing lottery in a (SHoP-designed) Hunters Point South high-rise are renting out their units on Airbnb. Market rate tenants expressed righteous indignation, and poor-shamed their neighbors for "gaming the system." In New York City, renting out your rented place on Airbnb is illegal, but is it really wrong? A Hunters Point South Commons tenant named Nathalye listed her two bedroom apartment on the site for $50o per night, plus a service and cleaning fee. Two other units in the development's two buildings were listed for rent, as well. Designated affordable units in the Related Companies development range from $494 to $1,997 for a studio, and $743 to $4,346 for a three-bedroom, depending on household earnings. The New York Post asked building resident Chris Dyer for his take on tenants renting out their affordable units: “they should be super grateful because so many people applied to try to get in, and they should not be taking advantage of the situation. I think those people should be held accountable and kicked out of their lease.” Proponents of sites like Airbnb claim that the site fills an unmet need for less expensive accommodations in a city where the average hotel room costs $297 per night. Opponents note that Airbnb inflates housing costs in the long run and displaces lower-income residents. It's easy to invoke tropes of the "worthy poor" to shame affordable housing tenants who earn extra income through Airbnb. In May, Gothamist outlined the subsidies and incentives that this (mostly market rate) development received: "While Related is not receiving 421-a subsidies for the Hunter's Point South apartments, [the developer] told us that his company is benefiting from a 'one-off' deal, which includes a 40-year tax break agreement (details were not disclosed). As an affordable housing project, the project also got $185 million in tax-exempt bonds from Cuomo, $236 million in said bonds from the Housing Development Corporation, and $68 million in subsidies from Housing Preservation and Development." A full discussion of ethics and affordability is outside the scope of this short post. But, in a city that's increasingly unaffordable for all but the very rich, it's worth asking: are tenants in affordable units so very different from market rate neighbors units or homeowners using Airbnb to make a buck?  

Ahead of the Tiny Homes Summit, AIA Chicago competition takes a big look at tiny houses

As part of this upcoming April Tiny Homes Summit at the University of Illinois Chicago, the AIA has launched the Tiny Homes Competition. Organized by AIA Chicago, in partnership with Landon Bone Baker Architects, Pride Action Tank, Windy City Times, and a long list of additional local and national advocacy groups, the competition seeks new modular alternatives to affordable and subsidized housing. Sited on four conjoined lots in Chicago’s historic Bronzeville neighborhood, the competition also hopes to engage a conversation on Chicago’s large city-owned vacant lot surplus. One module from the winning proposal will be constructed and presented at the spring summit. The competition will specifically address homelessness among young adults between the ages of 18–24, a group that makes up 31 percent of Chicago’s unsheltered homeless population and 19 percent of the sheltered homeless population. Proposals will outline planned 12-unit developments in which residents will have a safe secure space to sleep, study, and store their belonging. The brief also asks for a 1,200 square foot communal space and secure bike storage to be integrated into the overall site plan. The 350 square foot units themselves will include bathrooms, food storage and prep area, and sleeping area. With a $30,000 limit on material and mechanical systems, teams are being asked to design units that can be produced for under $60,000. The brief also stipulates that the units will follow city building codes, while zoning variances will be obtained to allow for the unique configuration of the projects. Now open, digital presentation boards are due January 30th, with winners being announced in March 2016. Jury members include city officials, architects and advocates. Winners will be awarded $5,000, as well as an additional $5,000 to develop construction drawings.