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De Blasio: Tax Breaks Must Result In More Affordable Housing

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In one week, on June 15, two separate sets of real estate regulations in New York State are set to run out. One centers on the complex tangle of rent-regulation laws, while the other relates to the tax breaks developers can currently seek if they agree to devote 20 percent of their buildings to affordable housing. Debate over whether to continue or revise the tax abatement system, known as the 421-a program, is making lots of headlines.

This weekend, Mayor Bill de Blasio—who wants to increase the percentage of units developers have to commit to affordable housing in order to get the tax break from 20 percent to 25 or 30 percent—brought the issue to the fore during a speech at a Harlem church, in which he said that one of the reasons he wants to strengthen rent regulation laws and revamp the 421-a rules is to keep New York from becoming "a city for only those wealthy enough to afford to be here, and we will not accept that." De Blasio even went so far as to say that if there is no hard-and-fast requirement to build affordable housing in order to get the tax break, then the whole program should just be scrapped.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, on the other hand, has come out saying that he supports an extension of the existing 421-a program, which requires less affordable housing to get the tax break and, in some cases and neighborhoods, requires none at all. Even union leaders, who are pushing for any revision to include legislation requiring that developers use union labor and pay prevailing wages, don't think the 421-a program is good as-is, so that should be some kind of a sign.

Stay tuned for more as the political battle plays out in advance of hearings in Albany next Monday.
· De Blasio Prods New York State on Housing Laws [NYT]
· Mayor Hardens Stance on Tax Break for Developers [WSJ]
· How New York's Complex Rent Laws May Change—and Soon [Curbed]
· All 421a coverage [Curbed]