Friday, December 19, 2014

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NY1's Grace Rauh takes a closer look at the mayor's plans and the hurdles to building and accessing affordable housing in the five boroughs.

Brick By Brick: Mayor's Affordable Housing Plan Faces Pressure from All Sides

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When it comes to building more affordable housing, Mayor Bill de Blasio is just getting started, but as he moves forward with his plan to construct or preserve 200,000 affordable units, he is facing pressure from all sides. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report, part 5 of her affordable housing series, "Brick by Brick."

Mayor Bill de Blasio's affordable housing plan was sold as a way to bridge what he calls the "Tale of Two Cities" in New York.

However, following through is proving to be complicated. The mayor needs support from the real estate industry to hit his housing targets, but liberal supporters, who played a key role in propelling him into City Hall, want him to do more to help low-income New Yorkers.

Protesters, including many who backed de Blasio during last year's campaign, marched this month to demand that half of all new developments be affordable.

"Fifty percent for low- and moderate-income people. Fifty percent for market rate. We split it. That's fair," said Bertha Lewis of The Black Institute.

The real estate industry is not exactly embracing the idea.

"If you are asking me whether or not it is doable, everything would have to be perfect," said Steven Spinola of the Real Estate Board of New York.

Then, there is the question of how the administration handles so-called "poor doors," separate entrances for market-rate and subsidized tenants, like the ones planned for a building on the West Side of Manhattan.

The mayor voted to allow it when he was in the City Council. He now says there should be a more equal approach to all residents.

It is unclear what that means. For instance, will the city require developers to give low-income and market-rate tenants the same access to amenities?

"There is not a one-size-fits-all solution," said Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen. "But at the end of the day, people can't feel stigmatized by what their income is."

The mayor has also endorsed the idea of mandatory inclusionary zoning, requiring, rather than incentivizing, affordable housing development. The idea is popular with his base, but there is concern it could actually discourage new construction.

"It's good to have the idea of mandates and a clear policy direction towards affordable housing, but the private market is going to need flexibility in order to do that in different ways," said Vishaan Chakrabarti of SHoP Architects.

Flexibility is something the mayor may not be willing to provide, especially if his liberal base refuses to do the same for him.

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