The 2013 Primary Candidates on Affordable Housing

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Former Councilman Sal Albanese wants rents on affordable housing—now frequently based on regional income statistics—to instead be set in line with what neighborhood residents actually make.

Photo by: Karla Ann Cote

Former Councilman Sal Albanese wants rents on affordable housing—now frequently based on regional income statistics—to instead be set in line with what neighborhood residents actually make.

According to the Community Service Society’s annual Unheard Third survey, creating more affordable housing is a priority shared by both low-income and moderate- to high-income New Yorkers. Indeed, at least since the late Ed Koch launched his Ten-Year Plan in 1986, every mayor—Democrat or Republican—has built or preserved affordable housing. The difference for Mayor Bloomberg and whoever follows him is that the cheap land that underwrote the first phases of the city’s affordable housing effort has all but disappeared. Figuring out how to build and sustain housing that is actually affordable to people with low or moderate incomes is a challenge the city will face in the next four years.

So what can the mayoral candidates offer us by way of affordable housing? Here are the ideas candidates have floated:

Sal Albanese

  • increase capital funding to $600 million per year for housing
  • use clawback provisions to force developers to build housing they promise
  • introduce mandatory inclusionary zoning, meaning developers would have to build affordable housing to take advantage of zoning changes
  • change the current 80/20 formula for affordable housing to 70/30 for all large residential developments, even those that don’t receive subsidies or tax breaks
  • base “affordable” income levels on income in each neighborhood, not regional averages
  • reduce parking requirements for developers
  • build new senior housing and supportive housing
    Albanese says his plan will “build and preserve 210,000 units of affordable housing, creating 26,000 Living Wage jobs in the process”

    Bill be Blasio

  • institute mandatory inclusionary zoning
  • change property tax rates, create a land bank and conduct an annual census to better capitalize on vacant properties
  • provide pro bono counsel to tenants in Housing Court
  • lobby Albany to return control of rent laws to local officials
  • legalize “granny flats” and basement apartments
  • permit more flexible transfer of development rights for affordable housing construction
  • use city pension funds to underwrite affordable housing
  • expand rent exemptions for seniors and the disabled
    De Blasio says he plans to build or preserve 190,000 units of affordable housing over 10 years

    John Liu

  • build 100,000 new units of affordable housing over four years, utilizing zoning changes and a large commitment of city capital dollars

    Christine Quinn

  • use a combination of new financing and savings within the city’s capital budget to finance housing
  • expand programs to turn unoccupied market-rate housing into affordable housing
  • build New York City’s first LGBT senior citizen community
    expand veteran preferences for housing
  • create a Distressed Housing Preservation Fund, which “will be used by HPD to purchase overleveraged buildings at a bulk rate.”
  • impose a 30-year cap on property tax payments to encourage developers to keep apartments in an affordable housing program
  • improve housing code enforcement
    Quinn says her plan will produce 80,000 new units of affordable housing (half for the poor, half for the middle class) over 10 years

    Bill Thompson

  • change the Rent Guidelines Board, which oversees increases in stabilized rents, to include tenants.
  • Use ” available and creative financing tools” to build 50,000 new units of housing
  • Build another 20,000 units on unused government property
  • use low-interest loan agreements to preserve another 50,000 units
  • lobby Albany to return control of city rent laws to local officials
    Thompson projects his plan will preserve or construct 120,000 units of affordable housing over eight years

    Anthony Weiner

  • Change the 80/20 program to a 60-20-20 program with housing set aside for low-income and middle-income families
  • leverage the air rights over city properties to encourage housing development
  • build affordable senior housing over parking lots
  • give affordable housing builders priority for permit approvals
  • use disaster funds to help homeowners facing large flood-insurance increases after Sandy
  • encourage faster development of brownfields as sites for affordable housing
  • launch a new Mitchell-Lama program offering subsidies and tax breaks for housing targeting different incomes
  • encourage more zoning that mixes commercial and housing development
  • ensure that excessive broker costs don’t hit people accessing HIV/AIDS housing

    Adolfo Carrion

  • encourage development projects that included housing as a community benefit
  • establish a wage structure to permit unionized workers to build affordable housing
  • recruit unions to invest pension funds in housing creation

    Joe Lhota, George MacDonald and John Catsimatidis have all endorsed the Housing First! affordable housing plan, which calls for spending $8 billion to build or preserve 150,000 units of affordable housing over eight years.

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