New York City Council Approves East New York Rezoning Plan

Will New York City actually build enough affordable housing?

The New York City Council on Wednesday, by a vote for 45 to 1, approved rezoning for East New York. This is significant since it is a major component of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing plan.

The Real Deal reported that the rezoning will generate 6000 more apartments. The rezoning legislation includes mandatory inclusionary housing.

There has been, as expected, lots of controversy over the Mayor’s plan to build more affordable housing. To the credit of the City Council and community organizations, some of the plan has been revised to meet some concerns.

Any affordable housing plan would be met with some opposition.

My fiancé, Jason often says why don’t they just build higher-more density. Well, there is the concern of blocking light and views of current homeowners and renters. Another important public policy challenge is new major development could change the architectural character of a certain neighborhood.

Rightly so, many housing organizations and neighborhood groups worry that the income threshold is not low enough to assist the very poor or working class. And community groups and long time residents are concerned what new construction would do to the neighborhood. Will it change the demographic make up and affordability if new luxury construction raises the price of real estate?

While developers are encouraged to build new housing with 25% affordable apartments, there still the fear that higher end apartments will make rents rise.

With new construction brings new retail and mixed-use construction. Many residents would welcome this. New retail shops, restaurants and small businesses will provide more jobs. But there is the concern of gentrification.

Of course, New York City is going through a housing crisis where we pay a large percentage of our income in housing costs. And many New Yorkers can not afford to pay their rent.

Inventory is low, even with last year’s boom in construction, and the price of purchasing a home in New York City is beyond reach for many New Yorkers.

One main contention is how do we define affordable? What incomes qualify for the new housing?

For now, the Mayor’s administration and the community should celebrate a victory. More affordable housing for some is on its way. The remaining question will be affordable for whom?

Photo credit: East New York Community Planning

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