We hear a lot of stories about the mayor and governor each seeking to outdo the other, and when it comes to the affordability crisis, each has made big promises. In 2014, Mayor de Blasio announced his plan to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing in 10 years. That target was recently increased to 300,000 units over 12 years. In 2016, Governor Cuomo announced his own $20 billion plan to build or preserve 112,000 units of affordable housing throughout the state over five years.
According to the New York State Department of Homes and Community Renewal, the governor’s goal is that about half of the units funded by his housing plan will be in New York City, and the other half in the rest of the state.
New Yorkers might be forgiven for assuming that, given the mayor and governor’s manifest dislike for one another and the prospect of working together, that the housing plans are distinct—and that they will jointly deliver some 412,000 units of preserved or new affordable housing to the state over their lifespans.
That is, however, not the case. There will be some overlap: projects that include both state and city financing will be counted toward both plans. Given New York City’s high land costs, many of those projects would not be feasible otherwise. This will make for a lower combined number of units. It also means that both leaders’ housing legacies will, despite their enmity, be intertwined.
Unfortunately, at this point it’s difficult to determine the extent of the overlap. The de Blasio administration regularly updates the list of units counted toward its plan on the city’s Open Data portal, but the state does not have a public list.
HCR says that the state will only be counting toward its plan the units built or preserved after April 2016, the first budget year of the governor’s plan. The agency says that in April, the end of FY 2018, it will begin compiling a list of these projects’ addresses.
The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) considers a project to have “state involvement” when it receives direct state financing, such as through HCR’s Working Families and Low Income Housing Trust Fund programs, or when it receives private financing through the state issuance of bonds or various kinds of tax credits. Projects that are mostly funded by the state but are also granted a discretionary tax benefit from the city are also counted toward the mayor’s plan.
Between April 2016 and the end of 2017, about one fifth of the city’s affordable units had “state involvement” as defined by HPD—10,546 apartments out of 53,507 apartments.
HCR says that it “counts all units supported by its state and federal resources toward the state’s five-year housing plan to build [112,000] homes” with affordable units counted toward the plan at the time a project commences, a grant is awarded or a loan is purchased, depending on the specific project.
By press time it was not clear whether exactly these 10,546 apartments built in the city, or more or less, would be counted toward the state’s 112,000 affordable units, due to the possibility of differences in the meaning of “state involvement,” as defined by HPD and “state and federal resources” as defined by HCR as well as other potential counting method differences.
Many other affordable units only rely on city funding and therefore will only be counted toward the city’s plan. And there will also be projects in the city that are only state-funded, and will only be counted toward the governor’s plan.
(To make things clear, the mayor’s twelve-year plan for 300,000 units includes the 15,000 supportive housing units he has promised, but the governor’s five-year plan for 112,000 units total includes just the first the first 6,000 of 20,000 supportive housing units he has pledged to fund over 15 years, by 2031.)
One project under construction that will certainly be counted to both housing plans—as it shows up in both city and state press releases under their respective housing plans—is La Central, a planned multi-building affordable and supportive housing complex on a large tract of vacant city-owned land in the Melrose neighborhood of the Bronx. The project is receiving funding from HPD, the NYC Office of Environmental Remediation, state tax-exempt bond financing, Low Income Housing Tax Credit financing, HCR, the State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance and private partners.
City Limits will update this post once the state releases the addresses of the units it has sponsored so far. Even so, given the variable ways that financing deals can come together, we won’t be able to identify the total overlap until the governor’s five-year plan is through. That simply means the public will have to live with some ambiguity about the total number of units these two ambitious plans will yield. And the men themselves will have to settle for having helped one another help more New Yorkers afford places to live.
The overlap of state and city housing finance is not new. From January 2014 through December 2017, 20,598 apartments—or almost one fourth of the 87,557 affordable housing units created or preserved by the de Blasio administration so far—had some form of state involvement, according to HPD.