Diving into Affordable Housing, Part II

Following up on our earlier Part I post about last night’s NYC Bar Association panel on affordable housing and development, panelist Benjamin Dulchin, executive director of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development Inc., said that there is “a remarkable amount of opportunity for affordable housing” with the new de Blasio administration.

Dulchin explained that there is little debate on New York’s unique need for affordable housing, and the Bloomberg administration has been aligned with those needs as well.  He called the mayor’s 156,000-unit affordable housing record an “extraordinary commitment” to keep during the downturn.

But Dulchin blasted the business-centric mayor’s negotiating skills, saying that Bloomberg received far less than the value of the concessions that the city gave to developers for affordable housing. The net during the administration, he said, was a loss of about 10,000 units annually during the mayor’s three terms.

For example, Dulchin explained, changes in exclusionary zoning were supposed to increase the available stock of affordable housing by 20%, but the real estate firms getting the new zoning for their developments increased it only by about 2%. 

Dulchin said similar undervaluing occurred with the other tools the city offers developers to build affordable housing, as well as those that keep tenants in it, such as tax allocations, abatements, and direct subsidies.

Bloomberg “didn’t drive a very hard bargain,” said Dulchin. “He gave away a lot of public value without creating public value,” he said, adding, “We should drive a better bargain” under the de Blasio administration.

In Part III later today, a developer counters Dulchin, noting that affordable housing was built that provided value for the city and for the middle class in Brooklyn and Staten Island. But the city has been in crisis mode on affordable housing since, at least, World War I….

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