Posts tagged with "Affordable Housing":
- 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
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.
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.
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.