Council Housing Chair Wants More Detail on De Blasio Plan

Print More

Councilman Jumaane Williams

City & State

Councilman Jumaane Williams

Just last week, Mayor de Blasio said the city had in his first year of office financed 17,300 units of affordable housing toward his goal of preserving or building over the next decade some 200,000.

But the plan will still be taking shape over the next few months in term sheets with developers, at construction sites and—if Housing Committee Chairman Jumaane Williams has his way—in the City Council hearing room.

Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat with a background in tenant advocacy, spoke to City Limits for a City & State TV interview on January 14, the same day he released a statement imploring Albany to “meet this crisis with absolute urgency before our City’s rent regulations expire this spring.”

Watch the video

The worry isn’t just that rent regulations could expire, Williams said. It’s that if the regulatory system isn’t strengthened, more apartments will be destabilized through vacancy decontrol—which knocks apartments off the rolls once the monthly rent surpasses $2,500—and other leaks.

“The mayor’s housing plan is supremely important, so we’re going to do a lot in the housing committee when it comes to that,” Williams said. “But if Albany doesn’t renew these rent laws and if they don’t strengthen them then we’re behind—I don’t know what, the 8-ball isn’t even a good analogy here.”

In late January, Williams’ committee will hold a hearing on 421-a, a real-estate tax abatement that is due to expire around the same time rent regulations must be renewed. “The question is whether or not we actually need the 421-a program, and then he second question is do we need it the way that it is,” he said. “For 421-a, I don’t believe we’re getting the right rate of return. I also believe the government does have to put up money. We have to put our skin in the game to make sure we get the units we need. But we have to demand a lot more.”

The housing committee is planning a series of hearings over early 2015 on different aspects of de Blasio’s housing plan. Williams’ panel first wanted to quiz housing officials about the mayor’s vision in June, but postponed the meeting to give the administration more time to prepare. At the rescheduled session in November, Williams expressed frustration at what he thought was a lack of detail from housing officials.

In the interview, Williams backed the administration’s commitment to density, though he wanted to know more about where it will go: “I don’t think as a city that we have much of a choice. We don’t really have much else to build on. We don’t have the vacant land that we used to. So we’re going to have to build up. The question is, do we completely change the character of a neighborhood by doing that? And so it’s important to me that neighborhoods are in this discussion. You don’t want to build a 20-story building in a place that has only had two stories. That’s probably unfair. But you can no longer say, ‘We’re not going to have any increase.'”

This story first appeared on City & State, with which City Limits is partnering to cover crucial housing policies stories in 2015.

2 thoughts on “Council Housing Chair Wants More Detail on De Blasio Plan

  1. I doubt that anywhere near 200,000 units will ever be constructed. But if deBlasio and Williams were smart (doubtful) they would concentrate their efforts in neighborhoods where large developments are desired by the local communities. They’ll get much more accomplished that way in a timelier fashion. I’m sure plenty of communities want this. Fewer political battles equals more construction. Leave the rest of us alone. Just today Queens BP Katz came out for downzoning certain neighborhoods in her borough. Not everybody wants to be surrounded by apartment buildings. Another idea would be upzone areas to allow construction of all market-rate upscale apartment buildings. In exchange for that builders would pay a ‘tax’ on each unit that would go into some fund to pay for construction of ‘affordable’ housing where the locals need and want it.

  2. Deblasio has needs to address the current HPD housing issue where new home owners have been left with mold,leaky roofs and other construction defects. So, why do we use the same developers and how do they end up with the contracts when there is ongoing complaints about the same developers. Of course, all these issues were ignored while he was public advocate. There needs to be some tracking system between NYCHDC and the loans that buildings have to take out to repair the problems by NO oversight at HPD. You can’t call this an affordable housing program when it’s not affordable due to ongoing repairs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *