Affordable For Whom?
Mayor Bill de Blasio rolled out a massive, 10-year, $41 billion plan to boost affordable housing within the next decade and with a push from local politicians, Arverne East could be one of the first local areas to see it implemented.
In his Housing New York: A Five-Borough, Ten-Year Plan, the mayor hopes the city will be able to build or preserve 200,000 affordable apartments throughout the five boroughs. The plan includes the preservation of 120,000 affordable housing units and building 80,000 new ones. The mayor’s ambitious plan is supposed to serve more than half a million New Yorkers ranging from those with extremely low income to those in the middle class.
“We have a crisis of affordability on our hands. It touches everyone from the bottom of the economic ladder, all the way up to the middle class. And so we are marshaling every corner of government and the private sector in an unprecedented response,” Mayor de Blasio said. “This plan thinks big – because it has to. The changes we are setting in motion will reach a half-million New Yorkers, in every community, and from every walk of life. They will make our families and our city stronger.”
Those having an extremely low income to those who have a middle income are set to benefit from the mayor’s plan. These incomes are based on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) estimate for Area Median Income (AMI), which is estimated to be $83,900 for a four-person household in New York in 2014. Those with an “extremely low income” make 0-30 percent of the AMI, or less than $25,150 for a four-person household. “Very low income” New Yorkers make 31-50 percent of the AMI, or $25,151- $41,950. Those with “low income” make 51 to 80 percent of the AMI, or $41,951 to $67,120. “Moderate income” means those who make between 81 and 120 percent of the AMI, or between $67,121 and $100,680 and those making between 121 and 165 percent of the AMI, or $100,681 and $138,435 are said to have “middle income.”
Those in the “low income” bracket will benefit most as 58 percent of the housing that is preserved or built will be available to them. Eleven percent will be available to those in the “middle income” bracket. Another 11 percent will go to those with “moderate income.” Twelve percent will be for those with “very low income” and eight percent will be dedicated to those in the “extremely low income” bracket.
The rent rate varies for each income level. A household paying more than 30 percontinued cent of its income on rent is considered to be “rent-burdened.” Those paying more than 50 percent are considered to be “severely rent-burdened.” Part of de Blasio’s reason for this plan is because almost 55 percent of rental households were considered to be rent-burdened in 2012, showing an 11 percent increase from 2000. According to the mayor’s plan, the monthly rent required to prevent rent-burden will range from up to $629 for extremely low income residents to $2,518-$3,461 for middle income residents.
The plan doesn’t reveal specifics for where this affordable housing will go. The city says it will work with communities to identify areas that can support new development or provide opportunities for preservation. Arverne View, formerly Ocean Village, is being used as a case study for the plan. After Sandy flooded the property, HPD, HDC, HUD and Citibank helped L+M Development partners acquire and finance a $60 million rehabilitation of the property, under the condition that L+M would ensure future affordability for households earning 80 percent of AMI or below, meaning those with low income. According to the property’s website, the residential complex, made up of 1,093 units and 11 buildings, houses professionals, students, administrators, teachers, health care providers and public servants.
Councilman Donovan Richards is hoping the mayor’s plan will get the ball rolling on the development of neighboring 80-acre Arverne East from Beach 56th Street to Beach 32nd Street. The stretch of cityowned property was razed in 1969 and has remained vacant since. In 2007, the city reached an agreement with L+M Development, Bluestone Organization and Triangle Equities to develop the site, but the recession put any plans on halt. Then Sandy happened. In April 2013, interest in developing the land was renewed with the announcement of a design competition intended to elicit advanced resiliency concepts called FAR ROC.
In October 2013, a design proposal by Swedish architectural firm, White Arkitekter, was chosen as the winner. An L+M Development Partners spokesperson confirmed that affordable housing is included in the plan for Arverne East. “The Arverne East site will have some affordable components but the exact details are still in the process of being finalized,” the spokesperson said.
Councilman Richards hopes that with Mayor de Blasio’s announcement, 2014 will be the year that development plans start to be put in place and he hopes the area will be used to cater to mixed incomes. “Arverne East is a goldmine. We want it to be successful. I envision mixed housing there. There should be some market-rate housing and there should be affordable housing,” Richards said. “The reason we want to do that is because we want disposable income to come into the community. That’s how you bring more commerce. We want to make sure there’s a balance.”
Richards has been working with city agencies and the developer to discuss the future of the area. “As we continue the conversation over Arverne East with HPD and the city, we’re trying to get to a place where everyone is comfortable and a portion of the land is dedicated to mixed incomes,” he said. He hopes that housing on the land will be able to cater to everyone. “The most successful areas have mixed housing and includes market-rate, middle, moderate and low-income affordable housing. That’s what makes Rockaway a unique community. It’s a place for everyone, not just the rich.”
“Everyday city workers, firefighters, police, teachers live here and don’t have to worry about being priced out. I want to keep that momentum going. Arverne East can keep it going,” he added.
Richards believes now is the time to push for the development of Arverne East. “This is our hugest push right now. I understand the stakes are high here. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and if we don’t get something going here now, we might not have the opportunity for another 20 years,” he said.
Some may have concerns over new buildings being added to the peninsula after Sandy as the community does not yet have proper flood and storm protection. As chair of the City Council’s Committee on Environmental Protection, Richards says he’ll ensure that the city and developers keep resiliency in mind when building up Arverne East. “We’ll be working closely with the DEP and the office of long term planning. We want to make sure that everything and anything that can be done to protect Rockaway is on their mind. The developers already have that in mind. We would never allow anything to be built without resiliency and stability in place.”
(See The Wave’s editorial regarding affordable housing.)