The so-called Fair Housing Framework, sponsored by City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and passed unanimously by the Council Wednesday, will task city agencies with creating a housing plan every five years that includes production targets for each of city’s 59 community districts—though stops short of mandating development.
Last calendar year, New York City produced 8,935 affordable homes via new construction, according to an analysis by the New York Housing Conference, which tracks annual development data.
More than 1,000 of those apartments were built in Brooklyn’s Council District 37, which spans Cypress Hills, Bushwick, Ocean Hill, Brownsville and East New York, the most of any neighborhood in 2022. In Manhattan’s District 2—which includes the Lower East Side, the East Village, Kips Bay and Murray Hill—no affordable units were constructed last year.
Those disparities, advocates and lawmakers say, help fuel the city’s affordability crisis, particularly in neighborhoods with access to ample infrastructure like parks, schools and public transportation. On Wednesday,* the City Council passed legislation aimed at a more equitable geographic distribution of income-restricted homes, tasking city agencies with setting development targets for each of the city’s 59 community districts every five years.
“Too many neighborhoods have been able to opt out of building affordable housing while others have shouldered more of the responsibility and deserve greater investments,” Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, who sponsored the so-called Fair Housing Framework, said at a press conference ahead of a vote on the bill, which passed unanimously Wednesday afternoon.
Under the legislation, the city’s departments of Housing, Preservation and Development (HPD) and City Planning (DCP) will be required to develop a citywide “Fair Housing” plan every five years, beginning in 2025. That assessment would set development targets, including for supportive housing—homes that come paired with support services like mental healthcare—as well as units for older New Yorkers and apartments for households earning at or below 60 percent of the Area Median Income (equal to $84,720 for a family of four).
The bill would require another report a year later that sets five-year housing targets for every community district, based on factors like a neighborhood’s access to infrastructure and climate vulnerability. Borough-wide public hearings on the plans would take place each year.
“We need every neighborhood to do its fair share to confront our city’s housing crisis,” Adams said. “It is possible to meet our citywide housing goals while also meeting the unique needs of each district.”
Still, the legislation stops short of mandating districts meet the new production targets. Earlier this year, Gov. Kathy Hochul had sought to institute mandatory housing development benchmarks for municipalities across the state, but the plan was met with opposition in many communities, and fizzled out by the end of session.
The approval of major housing plans in the city often comes down to councilmembers themselves, who get a binding vote in the Uniform Land Use Review Process. The Council typically votes on a project based on the position of the member whose district it's located in, a practice known as member deference.
"While this framework has commendable goals, its success is up to the City Council," Mbacke Thiam, housing and health community organizer at the nonprofit Center for Independence of the Disabled NY, testified at a hearing on Adams' bill in September. "Even the most well-informed fair housing plan has the potential to be sidelined, both by individual members blocking projects in their districts, and by the Council as a whole, by not providing adequate resources and tools to create new housing."
The city's overall affordable housing production saw a boost last fiscal year compared to the year prior, though numbers remained below the last two years of Mayor Bill de Blasio's term. Staffing shortages at city agencies have slowed projects, and Mayor Eric Adams is expected to announce additional funding cuts Wednesday, citing the costs of sheltering newly arrived immigrants over the last year.
Some of the city's broader housing goals, like converting offices to residential use and legalizing basement and cellar apartments, require legislative changes on the state level.
"As we focus on local improvements, it's also crucial to recognize that New York's housing crisis is a statewide concern," Annemarie Gray, executive director of the pro-housing organization Open New York, said in a statement in support of the Fair Housing Framework Wednesday. "Meaningful change demands the engagement of both the Governor and State Legislature, as they have the tools to ensure accountability in meeting equitable housing targets."
Still, housing advocates lauded the Framework bill as an important first step to a more comprehensive and equitable city planning effort.
"We all know what the status quo approach really gets us. It reinforces longstanding patterns of racial and economic inequality, of disparity," said Barika Williams, executive director of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD). A third of New York City residents spend half their income on rent.
"The vast majority of our affordable housing units have been developed in communities of color, in immigrant communities and low income communities," Williams added. "This is an opportunity and really a step forward, and saying we are going to change what that looks like."
*This story has been updated to correct the day of the week the legislation passed. It was Wednesday, not Thursday.