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NYC Comptroller Criticizes Brooklyn Neighborhood Plan for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing

NYC Comptroller Criticizes Brooklyn Neighborhood Plan for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer issued a report criticizing the East New York and Cypress Hill neighborhoods of Brooklyn and plans to address the city’s on-going affordable housing crisis. The City of New York proposed a series of zoning changes which include a Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (“MIH”) component for various neighborhoods across the city.  Comptroller Stringer looked specifically at the application of the MIH in East New York/Cypress Hill area of Brooklyn to determine whether MIH would help or hurt affordable housing.  He concluded that although affordable housing inventory would increase in the area, existing lower income residents would ultimately be priced out of the neighborhood.  These conclusions are interesting because Mayor deBlasio is a strong proponent of using inclusionary zoning ordinances to tackle the New York’s housing issues.

However, Comptroller Stringer makes a compelling argument.  His key points are that 84% of the residents in East New York would be unable to afford market rate units and 55% of the residents would be unable to afford so-called affordable housing units.  Rent stabilized residents would be at risk of displacement because new rental pressure would be created on existing residents as thousands of new higher income residents are brought into the neighborhood.  And, only one-half of the new affordable units (about 1,700) would actually be rented to current residents.  The anticipated number of new affordable housing units will not be enough to mitigate the increased economic pressure on the nearly 22,000 unprotected units.

Comptroller Stringer believes that the goal should be to target existing low income residents and to protect existing residents from harassment and displacement.  In other words, take care of those in need first rather than bring in higher income earners.  Displacement of existing residents only pushes the problem to the outer limits of the city and beyond and prices New York beyond the reach of the working class.  To achieve this goal, Mr. Stringer believes that income standards for affordable housing need to be set by neighborhood and not city wide.  Penalties for harassment must be enforced.

Mayor deBlasio’s office believes that the Comptroller’s conclusions are incorrect because the tenants in East New York are already “in danger today, because the market is already pushing pressure on their rents”.  The Mayor’s statement noted that the City is emphasizing its commitment to build on public land for families earning between $20,000 and $25,000.

Inclusionary Zoning will continue to have a place in New York and may have a place in other big cities, including cities in Florida, though such ordinances are not yet wide-spread here.  However, as high rent units continue to push low income families further from the urban areas, city officials will have to begin to make policy to encourage, or as inclusionary zoning works, require, developers to build units which are affordable to working class and lower income families.  Comptroller Stringer’s concerns should be noted – that is, take care of your existing residents, but Mayor deBlasio’s vision is also correct – assure a housing base for all incomes.

David Blattner

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