A reader with the handle lifeeorganization asks all Council candidates citywide:
What can you do to provide your district and the residents of New York City affordable housing?
We sent word to Council candidates with whom we’ve had contact and posted the question on our website a week ago. Here are the answers we received:
Paul Graziano (Reform Party, District 19, Queens)
Since 2003, I have been actively involved in pushing to retain and create affordable housing in New York City. Two weeks ago, I put out a platform along with Bob Holden and other candidates for elected office on the Reform Party to combat homelessness and retain/create affordable housing. There are two parts to retaining and creating affordable housing:
1) From 2003 to 2013, I was deeply involved in contextually rezoning large portions of the city, particularly in Queens where I authored or co-authored the majority of the adopted contextual rezonings during that time. Contextual zoning does something very important: by lowering the amount of development allowed, it removes the speculative value to a developer, thereby keeping the actual market value of the property lower. This has kept housing prices lower for middle-income residents living in these neighborhoods. This isn’t to say that the values have not increased considerably, but that they would have increased even further had the zoning not be tailored to more closely match the existing physical environment.
2) As ZQA-MIH (Zoning for Quality and Affordability/Mandatory Inclusionary Housing) has been a spectacular failure to date in terms of both implementation and adoption throughout the city and, in fact, is a harbinger for gentrification and increased housing costs rather than keeping neighborhoods affordable, we need another solution that gets to the heart of the matter. The simplest and fairest answer is to pass legislation making it *mandatory* for all new development within R6 to R10 zones – the higher density residential zones (and their equivalent commercial zones as well) in the city – to include affordable housing. A brief explanation follows below:
Developers currently get “bonus” height or bulk allowances for offering to include affordable housing in their projects in rezoned areas under ZQA-MIH. This housing is often not permanently affordable and is only offered to those developers seeking to build out-of-context. On order for affordable housing to work, it needs to be a mandatory part of as-of-right zoning. At east 15 percent of units in new construction projects would be reserved for low-income families or individuals. If units targeted middle income families, the requirement would be 25 percent. If supportive housing is provided instead, the requirement would be 10 percent of units. In terms of income of the residents, the units would be 100 percent affordable for households at or below 60 percent of the local area median income, calculated based on zip code or community district rather than the current formula based on the entire New York City Metropolitan Area. Priority for these units would be given to families, including families with children and intergenerational households; tenants on fixed incomes/seniors/disabled; and households experiencing or at imminent risk of homelessness.
Christopher Marte (Independence Party, District 1, Manhattan)
I will allocate more discretionary funds to address the structural issues in the public housing within my District, many of which are still damaged or moldy from Superstorm Sandy. Part of this funding will come through Participatory Budgeting, where residents propose projects that need funding and then vote on how they want discretionary funds to be allocated. I will also be a vocal advocate for changing the way AMI is calculated to be more reflective of the communities where the affordable housing is being built. I will tackle the systematic abuses of corrupt landlords and large real estate developers by protecting rent regulations, and supporting programs like SCRIE and DRIE. I will also ensure that the HDFC Coalition has a voice in any changes that are being considered to the program.
Randy Abreu (Working Families Party, District 14, Bronx)
I will start by voting No on the proposed Jerome Avenue Rezoning. The current Mandatory Inclusionary Housing thresholds implicitly leave low-income New Yorkers without ‘affordable housing’ options. District 14 residents earn about $25,000 a year. We cannot survive under current residential housing conditions where landlords are allowed to raise rents even though wages remain stagnant. We cannot survive under intimidating treatment and harassment from greedy landlords because we begin these battles tremendously disadvantaged. I see a Jerome Rezoning where the ‘affordable housing’ units to be constructed are truly ‘affordable’.
Michael Beltzer (Liberal Party, District 18, Bronx)
We can pass a comprehensive community based plan that adds affordable housing at localized income levels while getting money for transit improvements. We can also convert all NYCHA land to community land trusts and incorporate Mitchell-Lama style ownership opportunities.