Historic Preservation versus Affordable Housing

Multi-family property owners have known for decades that a Landmark District is the kiss of the death for their properties: Landmarking makes it much more expensive to maintain and improve residential properties. Now, our brethren at REBNY have uncovered another negative of historic districts. In a recently released report, REBNY had found that landmarking of historic districts precludes the development of affordable housing. See the links below for a copy of the report and the Editorial view of Crains New York Business.

Mayoral Candidates Pander to Housing Advocates, but Weiner Defends Vacancy Decontrol Vote


Mayoral candidates Bill de Blasio, Adolfo Carrion, John Liu, Bill Thompson and Anthony Weiner answer questions from affordable-housing advocates at a forum Tues., June 26, 2013.
Mayoral candidates Bill de Blasio, Adolfo Carrion, John Liu, Bill Thompson and Anthony
  Weiner answer questions from affordable-housing advocates at a forum Tues., June 26, 2013.


By Irina Ivanova


Democratic mayoral hopefuls—minus City Council Speaker Christine Quinn—expressed strong support for affordable-housing protections at a forum sponsored by a coalition of community groups Tuesday.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, City Comptroller John Liu, former City Comptroller Bill Thompson, former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner and Adolfo Carrión, an independent and former Bronx Borough President, spoke in front of about 400 attendees at the Calvary-St. George’s Church in the Gramercy Park area of Manhattan. The candidates agreed broadly on stricter enforcement of building codes, mandatory inclusionary zoning in new developments and reforming the New York City Housing Authority. All five also said that the Bloomberg administration’s ambitious housing plan to create or preserve 165,000 affordable units by the end of June 2014, largely through incentives to private developers, will fall short of meeting the need for affordable housing in the city.

“We hardly gained anything because we lost an equal number of units from rent regulation and Mitchell Lama,” said Mr. de Blasio. “There’s over a third of the city paying more than 50% of their income for rent.”

They called for the use of nonprofit developers and the implementation of mandatory inclusionary zoning as ways to build more affordable apartments. Inclusionary zoning, which is currently voluntary, allows a developer to build additional units if a certain percentage of the development is set aside for low-income residents.

Candidates also spoke in favor of stricter building code enforcement. Currently, only one-third of the building code violations that is recorded by the city result in fines. Mr. Thompson said he would “dramatically expand” the city’s Alternative Enforcement Program, which imposes additional penalties on landlords of severely distressed residential buildings, and hire more staff devoted to that program. Mr. Liu said the city should penalize building owners with a lot of violations by limiting the number of buildings in their possession.

“Even when they get fines and violations, the Buildings Department keeps giving them more buildings. The left hand doesn’t seem to know what the right hand is doing,” Mr. Liu said.

Mr. Carrión said he would create “a Hall of Shame for slumlords,” and enable the city to take poorly maintained buildings away from their owners.

When it came to reforming the New York City Housing Authority, there was no shortage of ideas. The candidates had harsh words for the mayor’s Infill/Land-Lease plan, which would rent out Housing Authority land for the construction of market-rate apartments. Mr. Carrión said money raised from selling the air rights of Housing Authority developments should go toward repairing existing public housing and building additional affordable housing. Currently, the agency has a backlog of more than 240,000 repairs, a number that once stood as high as 420,000.

Meanwhile, Mr. Weiner said he supported development on Housing Authority land, but for uses other than market-rate apartments such as commercial. “Let’s have specialized housing for seniors,” he said.

All five candidates also supported halting the nearly $100 million payment Housing Authority gives to the city each year for services like policing and sanitation. Many housing activists say the payment, which was instituted during the Giuliani administration, amounts to double taxation on public-housing residents. No other housing provider in the city is required to make such payments.

The mayoral forum was sponsored by a number of community groups, including Community Voices Heard, Good Old Lower East Side, the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, Los Sures and the Pratt Area Community Council.


Source: Crain’s New York Business

Private Developer Asked to Provide Permanent Affordable Housing??

Hundreds of units of new rental housing are being delayed by tenant advocates who insist that affordable housing within the development be provided on a permanent basis. The over-reaching threatens not only this development, but the entire process by which thousands units of affordable housing have been developed over many years.

The basic model for the development of affordable housing by private developers has been that City government provides subsidies in the form of tax exemptions for a period of years enabling private developers to provide a portion of that housing at reduced rents for the same period covered by the exemptions. The basic problem with this model has always been that such subsidized housing is time limited,requiring government to ultimately extend benefits to maintain that subsidized housing or replace it with new subsidized housing. The tenant advocate response to this conundrum is, apparently, to simply demand that private developers maintain the subsidy forever, without the commitment of additional subsidies by government.

The case in point is the development of a 750 unit rental project on West 57th St by Durst Fetner under the City’s 80/20 program, under which the developer would set aside 150 units for low income housing for 35  years. Tenant advocates, led by Councilperson Gale Brewer, have held by approval of the project insisting that the low income units be permanently affordable. The denial of economic reality by housing advocates will certainly not produce the desired inflow of low income housing and is a negative portent for the future development of affordable housing by private investors.


                                             – Jack Freund, Executive Vice President, Rent Stabilization Association 

(Views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the RSA.)


Additional sources:


RSA President Joe Strasburg responds to the City Comptroller’s recent report on rising rents in Crain’s New York

Letters to the Editor: The truth about rents

City comptroller’s report misleads on housing-cost burden


The city comptroller’s recent report on rising rents (“High rents hitting middle-class New Yorkers,” CrainsNewYork.com) slices and dices the statistics to erroneously make it appear that rent burdens in New York City are higher than elsewhere and, unbelievably, to suggest that middle-class renters have greater housing affordability problems than poor renters.

First, New York’s rents have been rising along with rents in the rest of the country to the point where a majority of renters in New York and nationally pay more than 30% of income for rent, making the 30% limit an outdated standard. (Some of your readers may recall that the federal government used to define paying more than 25% as unaffordable.)

Second, a large part of the rise in rents is the direct result of the increase in government levies for real estate taxes and water and sewer charges, yet the comptroller does not suggest restraining those increases as a way to rein in rising rents—perhaps because Comptroller John Liu, as a city councilman, voted for two midyear real estate tax increases. Nor does he suggest that zoning and other restrictive regulations raise the cost of housing.

Third, when gauging affordability, the comptroller’s report fails to consider that many renters willingly pay more than 50% of their income in rent for the privilege of living in core Manhattan or highly desirable outer-borough neighborhoods (or to consider the 1 million college students who are paying rent with little or no income).

There is a clear need to expand the supply and contain the costs of housing in New York City, but exaggerating the scope of the problem while ignoring root causes does not foster the rational discussion we need.


— Joseph StrasburgPresident 
    Rent Stabilization Association


Source: Crain’s New York