CIVIC CENTER — The city is "under budget" and "ahead of schedule" on its affordable housing goals, officials said on Tuesday — but because of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Albany's inaction on restoring the popular 421-a tax break for developers, crucial elements of their housing plan are "definitely at risk."
The city released new data on Tuesday showing progress made on its "Housing New York" initiative, which aims to build 80,000 new affordable units and preserve another 120,000 over the 10 years following Mayor Bill de Blasio taking office in 2014.
The de Blasio administration has created a total of 17,341 new affordable housing units and preserved an additional 35,595 since the mayor made that promise. Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen said the 23,284 new and preserved units financed by the city in fiscal year 2016 is the second highest on record in the city's history.
"We actually delivered exactly what we said," Glen said, despite "some headwinds coming out of Albany that make our work more difficult than necessary."
Developers in New York City have long taken advantage of a tax abatement program known as 421-a, which was created in the tough economic times of the 1970s to spur residential development.
Cuomo had asked the Building Construction and Trades Council and the Real Estate Board of New York, groups that represent construction workers and developers, respectively, to come to an agreement on how to renew 421-a last year. They failed, and the program expired in January.
More recent efforts to reinstate it have also failed.
Glen insisted on Tuesday that the city can still meet its housing goals without 421-a, and Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been agreed.
"It's harder, but we can," Been said.
Glen said one of the worst consequences of the loss of 421-a is the inability to build affordable housing in expensive neighborhoods.
"That's tragic, and Albany needs to be held accountable for that," she said. "Our ability to do the kind of mixed-income building and neighborhood planning that's a sort of tent of our Housing New York plan is definitely at risk."
Glen added later: "The state doesn't appear to have an affordable housing plan."
A spokesman for the governor called Glen's claim "as petty as it is false."
"To say that the state does not have a housing plan is as petty as it is false," the spokesman said. “The governor is making an unprecedented $10 billion commitment to creating and preserving 100,000 units of affordable housing."
Glen said the de Blasio administration is "ahead of schedule," though they created only 6,097 new units in FY2016, which was 28 percent fewer than in the previous fiscal year and fewer than they would need to be on track if they were aiming to build 8,000 units per year to meet the goal of 80,000 in 10 years.
Been also suggested that the higher number in FY2015 was a "bump up... because of the natural rush to get into the ground" before the 421-a tax break expired.
But Glen and City Planning Commissioner Carl Weisbrod pointed out that some of their biggest zoning initiatives, Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) and Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), have yet to take effect.
Both plans were passed by the City Council earlier this spring. ZQA raises building heights in some areas and eliminated some parking requirements to facilitate more senior housing, and MIH will require some new construction to have a portion of affordable units.
"Zoning is a long term indicator. It takes a long time to get it going, but once it keeps going, it's a gift that keeps giving and giving and giving," Weisbrod said.
Part of MIH involves rezonings of certain neighborhoods. The administration has named seven target neighborhoods so far, and said they plan to rezone a total of 15.
Rezonings of Inwood and East Harlem "are very on track," Weisbrod said, and despite issues with their plan to rezone Flushing, Weisbrod said they "have not abandoned any of the neighborhoods which we have announced."
Weisbrod said they expect to name four or five new neighborhoods to target for rezoning "over the next few months," but would not say which areas are under consideration.