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De Blasio Affordable Housing Plan Not Affordable Enough: Activists

By Jeff Mays | December 15, 2015 2:59pm
 Housing activists protested Mayor Bill de Blasio's affordable housing rezoning plan   in front of City Hall Tuesday, saying that it does not provide enough affordability for people who live in the affected neighborhoods and that the city refuses to use their leverage to force developers to hire union workers.
Housing Activists: De Blasio Affordable Housing Plan Not Affordable Enough
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CITY HALL — Mayor Bill de Blasio's affordable housing rezoning plan does not provide enough affordability for people who actually live in the affected neighborhoods, housing activists said in front of City Hall Tuesday.

"The plan is not going to benefit anyone from our coalition, low-income and moderate income people, in every neighborhood that will be rezoned," said Maritza Silva-Farrell, campaign director for the group Real Affordability for All.

The protest from groups such as New York Communities for Change and Make the Road New York, which have traditionally supported de Blasio, comes as a majority of community boards across the city voted against the mayor's proposed zoning changes designed to facilitate the creation and preservation of 200,000 units of affordable housing.

What's Next for De Blasio's Affordable Housing Zoning Proposals?

Here's What You Need to Know About the Mayor's Citywide Rezoning Plan

Under the Zoning for Quality and Affordability proposal, the parking requirements for affordable housing would be eliminated while allowing for taller buildings to increase affordable housing.

Mandatory Inclusionary Housing would require the construction of affordable housing components for projects receiving city land or a subsidy.

Community boards across the city have rejected the plan, doubting the included affordable housing will be affordable enough for residents. They also said they doubt it will sufficiently take the character of individual neighborhoods into account.

There's also a concern that the proposals will hasten gentrification.

De Blasio has depicted the boards as reflexively dismissive of new development and cast the plan as an effort to get some benefit from the gentrification that is going to occur any way due to market forces.

The zoning changes will be examined in a hearing before the City Planning Commission Wednesday.

Silva-Farrell said the city is not getting enough in exchange for allowing developers more density.

"We think that density is a big bargaining chip that we can use with developers so we shouldn't be giving it for free," she said. "Developers should be required to meet higher standards of affordability."

The city should also use their leverage to force developers to hire union workers from the neighborhoods being rezoned, she said.

"We need to ensure the creation of local jobs so residents can afford the housing that will be built," Silva-Farrell added.

Amelia Barnes, a housing activist from East Harlem, said affordability is the biggest issue facing people in her neighborhood.

"The housing they are proposing does not fit into the income bracket of people in my neighborhood," Barnes said.

Tiffany Lee, director of the social justice ministry for Centro Altagracia de Fe y Justicia, said Inwood could lose industrial areas that provide jobs while residents there are priced out of the new housing.

"It's like this is rezoning out New Yorkers who have lived here to make room for new people," she said.

Housing activists say they have presented their case to City Hall in meetings, but feel ignored.

"There is no real commitment to incorporate some of our proposals into the current plan and that's why we are in opposition," Silva-Farrell said.

De Blasio spokesman Wiley Norvell said the groups are incorrect in their assessment that the plan won't reach low and moderate income New Yorkers. Additional city subsidies will drive down prices as well, he said.

“We will in fact reach these low-income families, through a combination of zoning and city subsidies. All these tools work together to target families in need in each community," said Norvell.

In East New York, the first community to be rezoned, additional funding from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development will allow families making as little as $18,000 per year to qualify for new units.

Those sort of details are not explicitly built into the rezoning plan which leaves activists saying that the city proposal should guarantee certain levels of affordability.

"We are not saying don't build it, but let's rezone it the right way," Silva-Farrell said. "Otherwise, it will be a 'Tale of Two Cities' 2.0."