MEDIA: City Council and Mayor Reach Deal on Key Housing Plan Components

By: Brigid Bergin and Jessica Gould
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Publication & Publisher: WNYC 93.9 FM and AM 820

There have been months of rowdy protests, marathon hearings and heated negotiations. But City Council and the de Blasio administration have reached a deal on two key pieces of the mayor’s affordable housing plan. The two plans are called Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability. Mayor de Blasio says they’re key to achieving his goal of building and preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade. 

The Plans:

Mandatory Inclusionary Housing means that developers will be required to build affordable apartments in rezoned areas. This is a change from the current policy, where building affordable housing has been voluntary and which, critics say, hasn’t led to enough affordable apartments.

The other component is Zoning for Quality and Affordability, which will rewrite parts of the zoning code to make it easier to build housing, especially affordable housing and senior housing. To do that, the code will allow taller buildings in some areas, and reduce some parking requirements, among other things.

What Changed: 

The mayor’s mandatory housing proposal had three options for affordable apartments. Developers would have to set aside 25 percent of units for a family of three making about $46,000 a year, 30 percent for a family of three making $62,000 a year, or 30 percent for a family of three making $93,000 a year.

But council members and tenant activists argued that many New Yorkers earn much less than that. As a result, they warned current residents in some rezoned neighborhoods would not be able to afford the new apartments, and might get displaced because of gentrification spurred by all the development. The council pushed for lower-income thresholds, including a new option that would set aside 20 percent of units for families of three making about $31,000 a year.

On Zoning for Quality and Affordability, council members responded to concerns from communities about increased heights and reduced parking, tweaking the proposal to limit height increases and preserve some parking.

The administration also committed to legislation that would require landlords to prove they aren't harassing tenants. And it promised activists it would look at ways to build even more affordable apartments, with labor protections for workers.

What People Are Saying:

Mayor de Blasio called the deal a "watershed moment when we turned the tide to keep our city a place for everyone." Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said the "intense process" produced "substantial changes from what was originally proposed."

And some of the housing advocates who expressed concerns about the plans say they're pleased with the final results. "Because of the efforts of Council members and housing groups we will now be able to an extra half a million low income New Yorkers previously not covered by the plans," said Barika Williams, with the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development. She said advocates will continue to push for even more affordable housing for lower-income New Yorkers.

But Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, a business group, said she worries the revised plans are too proscriptive. "What you're doing is narrowing the possibility for design, financing, and affordability," she said. "If the options get too narrow, you send up precluding development on many sites and reducing the number of affordable units."

What's Next:

The city council is expected to hold a hearing on March 17. A full vote is expected on March 22.