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NYC's Controversial New Affordable Housing Proposals, Explained

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Over the next two days, the City Council will debate two rezoning proposals introduced by the Mayor de Blasio's administration: Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA). Both proposals are part of the mayor's ambitious Housing New York plan, which seeks to add and maintain 200,000 units of affordable housing across the five boroughs over the next 10 years. Both proposals have been controversial with many community groups coming out against their implementation. But as the City Council gets ready to add its own set of changes to the plans, Curbed is taking a look at both proposals and seeing what they actually have to offer, and examine why people are concerned.

What is Mandatory Inclusionary Housing?

MIH essentially calls for the creation of a set amount of affordable housing at new developments where developers are seeking rezoning for those projects. Here are some of the salient features of the plan:

· The affordable housing created through this program would be mandatory and permanent.
· The City Council and the City Planning Commission would require developers to enforce one or both of the following conditions in the new developments: 25 percent of the residential floor area must be affordable to families averaging 60 percent of the area median income (AMI), or about $46,620 for a family of three. The second condition asks for 30 percent of the residential floor area to be affordable to a family averaging 80 percent of the AMI, or $62,150 for a family of three.
· These city agencies can also enforce a "limited workforce option," which has its own set of guidelines, one of them being no units in the building going to families making over 130 percent of AMI, which is $101,010 for a family of three.
· In comparison to other major cities where mandatory affordable housing programs are currently in place, New York has a much greater percentage requirement on affordable units. The former two cities have between 15-20 percent, whereas New York is asking 25-30 percent.

What are the criticisms of MIH?

Critics argue that while it addresses an affordable housing shortage, 60 percent AMI is a lot higher than many families can afford and that a lot of people in need would actually get left out. The administration agrees but counters by saying that while the income bracket might not address all populations, this plan is one of several that are part of the Housing New York plan and that there different plans in place to address different income levels.

What's the difference between that and Zoning for Quality and Affordability?

ZQA is slightly more complicated than MIH, but in essence, it deals with zoning that would allow for taller buildings in some neighborhoods, and would increase affordable senior housing. Some of its big points:

In neighborhoods with medium and high density zoning districts:

· Residential buildings could get taller —no more than five feet in most cases, if the developer provides a taller ground floor.
· Buildings that provide affordable senior housing or inclusionary housing can increase their height by one or two floors at most in a majority of cases.
· There would be a limit on the number of stories, so floors can't be crammed in based on height requirements.

In low density zoning districts, it would:

· Allow for the creation of a wide range of affordable senior housing and care facilities, which also holds true for medium and high density zoning areas.
· Modify existing zoning for walkup buildings and allow for creation of elevators in buildings not taller than four to six stories.

What are the criticisms of ZQA?

Some of the concerns voiced against this plan include the fact that these new taller buildings could alter the character of particular neighborhoods, and take away parking spots. The administration has countered by saying that there are limitations set in place to control the nature of building.

Who is for and against these proposals?

Over 90 percent of the city's 59 community boards are opposed to these proposals as they stand today. They have been joined in this opposition by several borough presidents, and housing advocates as well. Those in Mayor de Blasio's camp include the AARP, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, and a host of union groups like the Hotel Trades Council and District Council 37.

What happens next?

Both proposals went through an extensive public review process that began last fall. At present the plan is in its final stage, which is the City Council review. The Council will deliberate, suggest changes, and take a vote on the plans next month.

· Planning Commission Vote Will Send Zoning Proposals to City Council [Gotham Gazette]
· Two Affordable Housing Proposals Clear Hurdle [WNYC]
· Ahead of Council vote, mayor's allies organize in defense of housing agenda [Politico]
· City Planning Approves De Blasio's Contentious Zoning Proposals [Curbed]