Earlier this year, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio blasted the hidden taxes contained in water and sewer rates. He was referring to the “rental payment” the Water Board makes to the City each year. The rental payment is supposed to cover the cost of water and sewer bonds issued by the City years ago. But the current payments greatly exceed those costs and are simply used to balance the City’s budget –truly a hidden tax. But will Bill de Blasio heed his own call for action if he becomes Mayor? Probably not.
What’s the best way to increase the amount of affordable housing in New York City. The New York Times digital edition recently featured a collection of proposals that address this issue.
Most of the proposals were more of the same old: strengthen rent regulations, preserve public housing, tax increment financing, nonprofit ownership and other mechanisms that have been used in NYC to a greater extent than anywhere else, but have all failed to solve the “affordable housing crisis”.
Only one proposed solution has not been tried in New York and it comes from Ed Glaeser, an economics professor at Harvard University, who understands the laws of supply and demand. Professor Glaeser proposes a simple solution of easing housing demand by increasing the supply of housing. And the way to increase supply is to remove the barriers to building created by land use regulations such as zoning, historic preservation and air rights (and we should add rent regulations and labor practices).
But New York City, under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has moved in the exact opposite direction. Major rezoning, affecting 40% of the city, has downzoned neighborhoods where developers were building higher-density market-rate housing without taxpayer subsidies. Development has instead been funneled into smaller development zones where even greater density will be required, together with subsidies to produce affordable housing.
The City Council is now suing to block the NYC Housing Authority from leasing underutilized land for market rate housing development even though the profits will be plowed back into improving housing authority projects. Leading the charge is City Council Christine Quinn who approved exactly such a development in her own City Council district several years ago. Nor did the City Council protest the more than 4,270 housing units which have already been developed or are in development on Housing Authority property under Mayor Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan. Could this lack of principle have anything to do with churning up support among public housing residents for the Mayoral campaign of Democratic candidate Bill De Blasio, who has also opposed leasing NYCHA property for private development?
The Council says the authority shouldn’t be in the business of creating more housing for the affluent. But NYCHA officials say the lease money would go directly into developments and repairs for low-income housing residents.
The New York City Council sued Thursday to stop the local housing authority’s plan to lease public land for luxury development.
The Council — joined by housing authority tenants and the Legal Aid Society — contends that New York City Housing Authority should not be in the business of creating more housing for the affluent.
“NYCHA’s sole purpose is to build and maintain affordable housing — not lease public land to make way for luxury apartments,” Council Speaker Christine Quinn said. Continue reading