De Blasio’s affordable housing overhaul
by Andrew Shilling
May 01, 2013 | 3914 views | 0 0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ivan Contreras
Ivan Contreras
In response to the narrowing poverty threshold, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio delivered a plan to add over 100,000 affordable housing units and preserve roughly 90,000 over the next ten years.

The eight-point proposal calls for mandatory development requirements for permanent affordable housing units and provides incentives for builders to develop vacant lots into legal, rent-regulated units.

De Blasio said in addition to recent reports showing eight percent fewer affordable housing units than a decade ago, his proposal is in response to recent studies showing one-third of New Yorkers spend half of their income on rent and a recent report from the Bloomberg Administration citing, “46 percent of the people in this city are at or near the poverty level.”

“If we don’t act swiftly and decisively, we’re cosigning ourselves to a ‘Tale of Two Cities,’ where mixed-income neighborhoods will be a thing of the past,” de Blasio said in front of a newly renovated affordable housing unit at 19 Maujer St. in Williamsburg last week. “I already knew that a quarter of this city were below the poverty level, but to hear that another 20 percent are hovering so close it and are struggling so deeply, that was a shock even to me.”

In addition to the mandate on landlords for the inclusion of affordable housing in large development projects, his plan also suggests spending $1 billion of the city’s pension funds to rebuild dilapidated affordable housing units.

“Our pension funds were under utilized in a shocking manner,” he said. “It is one of the great tools at our disposal.”

The plan calls for rezoning to regulate basement apartments and “granny flats” in currently illegal regions, many of which are already occupied throughout the boroughs and an effort to close tax loopholes, which de Blasio says encourages developers to maintain idle property.

“Our tax system makes it easy for landowners not to utilize their land, it actually incentivizes keeping land off the market and unavailable for housing we need,” he said.

The plan also increases the enrollment in rent-support programs for seniors and the disabled, expanding free legal resources to help tenants fight unlawful evictions and repealing the Urstadt Law, which gives the state control over city housing regulations.

De Blasio noted this repeal would protect developments like Mitchell-Lama buildings, created in 1955 to provide affordable rentals and coops to moderate and middle-income families.

“Letting the real estate industry keep calling the shots with our housing policy isn’t going to deliver what working people need,” he said. “We need a new direction.”

Gladdys Puglla, co-chair and board member of Make the Road New York, agrees with these sentiments and demands the bar be raised when it comes to adding more affordable housing units throughout the city.

“We need a maximalist approach that fights for every affordable unit, whether it’s negotiating with developers or protecting rent-regulated units from leaving the system,” Puglla said.

Ivan Contreras, a coordinator with the Queens Housing Coalition, said there are two or even three families living in the same unit in many of the districts he represents.

“Everyday we are seeing tenants in our offices that let us know how hard it is for them to pay their rent every month,” Contreras said.

Contreras noted that even large housing developments seem to go under the radar when it comes to providing housing for low and middle-class families.

“Right now we don’t have any guarantee that there is going to be any affordable housing in Willets Point,” he said. “We have to require more from the developers. Affordable housing is a priority, and we need it. We need it right now.”

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