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New York City's Ambitious Affordable Housing Agenda Is Ahead of Schedule

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The De Blasio administration announced that it’s financed 52,936 affordable homes so far

One of the major hallmarks of Mayor de Blasio’s administration has been the creation or preservation of 200,000 affordable housing units over a decade—and two years in, the administration is reporting that the ambitious plan is now ahead of schedule. A press release sent out today reports that for the fiscal year of 2016, the administration secured 23,284 affordable apartments. That’s the second highest production in New York City history, and the most since Ed Koch was mayor.

With those numbers, the release states, "the Mayor’s Housing New York plan now is ahead of schedule, with 52,936 affordable homes financed so far, enough for 130,000 New Yorkers." It also points out that 3,500 apartments were built for New Yorkers earning less than $24,000 per year, while more than than 4,000 affordable units for low-income seniors are now underway.

A report in the Times notes that the mayor’s plan is not without challenges, earning skepticism from housing experts and causing a feud with Governor Cuomo that ultimately derailed the 421-A subsidy program. Many critics claim that the affordable housing being built is still unaffordable to the poorest New Yorkers. The mayor’s press release addresses this, stating: "One-quarter of all affordable housing financed since 2014 will reach New Yorkers making less than $31,100 for an individual or $40,800 for a family of three. Of these homes, 50 percent are for New Yorkers making less than $19,050, or $24,500 for a family of three. This progress reflects the traction of new programs and initiatives targeting the very lowest-income families, including the formerly homeless."

As the Times points out, nearly a quarter of affordable apartments preserved with city financing last year were from Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village, and the Riverton Houses in East Harlem, both originally built for middle-class tenants. New owners of both complexes received tax breaks and other subsidies from the mayor to keep apartments affordable. According to the Times, "Those projects are far larger than the typical complex in the city’s affordable housing programs."

But the mayor still has ambitious affordable housing plans in the pipeline, like the Domino Sugar Complex (700 of the 2,800 apartments will be affordable) and the East New York Rezoning Plan. "As we move forward, tools such as MIH and ZQA will help foster economically diverse neighborhoods and house a wider range of New Yorkers," Director of City Planning and Chair of the City Planning Commission Carl Weisbrod said in a statement. "Neighborhood planning initiatives, like the East New York Community Plan, will increase capacity to ensure future housing opportunities and create thriving neighborhoods with investments to support growth. Working together, we are creating a more equitable New York with affordable housing for residents at all income levels."