Housing for vulnerable communities

Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams .
Photo by Helen Klein

Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams has called for “deeper affordability” in New York City housing, saying that, over the next few months, the City Council will consider two proposals that could have a real impact on the “severe housing crisis and dramatically affect the lives of millions of New Yorkers.”

He said these proposals are Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality Affordability.

“Despite their nuanced differences, Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability are inextricably linked,” said the representative for the 45th Council District in Brooklyn.

“The latter will adjust zoning standards and make changes to the use of building envelopes, essentially allowing taller buildings and potentially increasing developer profits,” added Williams, chairman of the Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings.

Williams said the former will provide guidelines when re-zoning entire neighborhoods.

He said these changes will encourage developers to build in areas previously seen as unprofitable and undesirable.

“If executed well, it would be integral to achieving the ambitious goals laid out in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s housing plan,” he said. “If not, it could ensure that development happens at the expense of our communities and the people who desperately need assistance.”

As written, Williams said the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing proposal “fails to meet the affordability needs of too many New Yorkers and largely ignores our most vulnerable communities.

“We will lose a great opportunity to address our housing crisis if we fail to include deeper affordability for working families and the lowest-income New Yorkers in the final plan,” he said.

Under the current proposal, Williams said an apartment renting for about $1,300 a month is considered “affordable,” despite being too expensive for close to half of all New Yorkers.

In fact, Williams said half of New York City residents earn less than the $51,800 in household income that would allow them to qualify for one of these units.

“Those are the families who most often have the heaviest rent burden and need affordable housing the most,” he said. “If the rent levels proposed by the de Blasio administration don’t make sense for half of the city, neighborhood residents assume the rezoning isn’t meant for people like them and justifiably fear displacement.”

At best, Williams said the current proposal will create a small amount of “affordable” housing that is “priced too high for most New Yorkers.”

At worst, he said it will “create the appearance of affordability while continuing to further displace our communities.

“The City Council can and must change the proposal so it actually addresses the housing needs of our neighborhoods and city as a whole,” Williams said. “Specifically, I am calling for the final Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy to provide deeper affordability for low-income households.”

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