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Nearly 200,000 People Applied for 14 Affordable Apartments in Bushwick: HPD

By Gwynne Hogan | December 16, 2015 2:34pm
 Just 14 affordable units in Bushwick came up for lottery in the city this year, according to HPD.
Just 14 affordable units in Bushwick came up for lottery in the city this year, according to HPD.
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Real Affordability for All

BROOKLYN — The chance of scoring an affordable apartment in Bushwick is one in 13,000, according to city officials.

In one of the strongest real estate markets in the borough, where at least 1,328 new apartments were slated for construction over the course of the year, just 14 affordable apartments opened up for lottery, according to the city's Department Housing Preservation and Development.

There were 181,229 applicants for those 14 units, according to HPD.

"Fourteen is too low. Even if it's double that, even if it's 30, it's still too low," said affordable housing advocate Scott Short with the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizen's Council

The small number of affordable units highlights the shortcomings of the city's current Voluntary Inclusionary Housing program, which asks developers to build affordable units for certain tax breaks, Short said.

"In North Brooklyn developers don't choose to take advantage of it, either because the incentives are not great enough or because the [zoning doesn't] allow them to take full advantage of the incentives that are offered," Short said.

In October, the Real Deal published an extensive analysis of all filings for new residential units across the city.

While Brooklyn development had stalled compared with numbers from 2014, by October, Bushwick had already surpassed the number of units built the year before with 1,328 new apartments in the pipeline, according the real estate report.

There were more new units set to be built in Bushwick than any other Brooklyn neighborhood, and the area accounted for 19 percent of all of the borough's new development, the Real Deal found.

The meager number of affordable units built, compared with feverish market-rate development is indicative of the fact that city policies still don't do much to harness that momentum, said Moses Gates from the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, an umbrella organization for affordable housing developers.

"The idea that we're going to leverage affordable housing out of a hot market, which is the impetus behind mandatory inclusionary zoning, that debate was not going on four years ago," Gates said.

And policies are taking years to catch up to that conversation, he said.

"It’s a slow and dirty sausage maker that this is all going through," Gates said.

The city has proposed two changes to zoning codesMandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability, that would make building affordable units required not voluntary, would allow for increased density in exchange for affordable units and would aim to spur affordable construction in other ways.

The proposals, however, have come under fire from all angles, with most community boards across the city voting against them.

In some cases, advocates say that the level of affordable units provided by the plan are too high and would quicken gentrification of some areas. Critics in wealthier neighborhoods argue the plan excludes the middle class from finding homes.

But the city defended its new zoning plans, saying the number of available affordable homes would be higher if Mayor Bill De Blasio's plan becomes reality.

"A builder cannot pull a permit in a newly rezoned area without delivering affordable housing to the community," mayoral spokesman Wiley Norvell said. "That will be a game-changer."