Affordable Housing: The City’s Continued Failure

by Heather Van De Mark on

As the conversation continues for major development in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, it’s important to remember the significant need for affordable housing. As part of the Points of Agreement (POA), the Administration recommended 3,548 units of affordable housing be created (source). Eight years later, HPD says that 922 units are complete or in-construction and another 760 units are in “predevelopment” (source). In other words, only a quarter of the units have been completed or will be completed soon–eight years later.

Rendering by Dattner Architects of a proposed 16,000-sq-ft affordable-housing development in North Brooklyn (Source)

Of the 1,345 affordable units to be developed on public city-owned sites, 19 units have been completed, which is less than 1% (source). Affordable housing (and open space, but let’s save that for another post) was and still is often touted as the “upside” to increased density and development zonings in the community. Clearly, the city is failing our community–grossly–failing our community.

Not only is the neighborhood not getting the units promised (granted, in a legally non-binding agreement), but also the recommended AMIs are hotly debated as being too high and non-reflective of the neighborhood. Again, according to the POA, the units on public sites should include AMIs ranging from 20% – 125% with 60% of units under the 60% AMI threshold.

Meaning that of the suggested 1,345 affordable units, 807 of them should be rented for less than 60% AMI. From HDC’s Income Eligibility Guidelines, under the LAMP program, 60% AMI is equal to: $51,540 for a family of four, $46,440 for a family of three, $41,280 for a family of two and $36,120 for an individual. The median household income from 2007-2011 for the borough was $44,593 (source). The community desperately needs these 807 units at or below 60% AMI.

And not to overload you with numbers or the same regurgitated quotes on broken promises, I mostly want you to remember what’s at stake: people’s lives. The lack of affordable housing in the community and city-wide has a profoundly detrimental effect on residents’ quality of life, psychological development and the future promise of our communities. And those most at risk through no fault of their own–children and the elderly–have the most to lose. The NY Times’ has two worthwhile reads: With Rental Demand Soaring, Poor Are Feeling Squeezed and Invisible
Child. Girl in the Shadows: Dasani’s Homeless Life
. The former discusses the disparity on a national level, noting that “many of the worst shortages are in major cities with healthy local economies, like Seattle, San Francisco, New York and Washington.” The latter follows an 11-year-old’s life of homelessness in gentrified Fort Greene.

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has proposed building or preserving 200,000 affordable units across the city (source). But is it too little, too late, and even worse is it just a pipe dream to placate the poor as their quality of life deteriorates even further?

Heather Van De Mark

Heather Van De Mark

Heather is a designer/writer specializing in non-profit organizations and social causes. Originally from central NY, Heather settled into the charming Greenpoint neighborhood in 2011. While most of her community activism takes place from behind a computer screen, Heather can often be found at CB1 meetings, the McCarren Park track and any of the parks along the waterfront.