Affordable Housing Figures Show Progress, Need – QNS.com

Affordable Housing Figures Show Progress, Need

When the annual Mayors Management Report came out in September, the numbers showed both progress and setbacks in the battle against the citys worst affordable housing crisis in 50 years. The average number of families and single adults in the homeless shelter system each day rose for the fifth consecutive year, but the city announced it had exceeded its targets for building and preserving affordable housing units.
Looking at the bright side, Mayor Bloomberg said, "We have met New Yorkers most pressing needs." He pointed out that the number of new families entering the shelter system had shrunk, although not dramatically, from 7,087 last year to 7,015 this year, and that his ambitious $3 billion affordable housing plan released in 2002 had already begun building 40 percent of the 65,000 affordable units promised by 2008.
His sunny outlook was boosted again last week when the Enterprise Foundation donated $1 billion to create and preserve more low- and moderate-income housing in New York. These measures will help, says Housing First!, a coalition of affordable housing advocates, but they point out that to solve its housing crisis, the city actually needs between 250,000 and 500,000 units.
In Long Island City, recently rezoned and now becoming one of the newest hotspots for residential development in Queens, the effectiveness of the citys promises to combat homelessness and expand affordable housing is under intense scrutiny.
"One of the biggest problems we have is housing," said Joseph Conley, chair of Community Board 2. Conley said the housing boom in his district has not meant an increase in affordable units. Instead, he said, low- and moderate-income residents are being forced out. With vacancy rates across the city at 2.94 percent, and even tighter in Queens (1.78 percent according to the most recent city study in 2002) some residents have decided crunching together beats moving out into a brutal market.
"More and more people are living in basement apartments, and forced to live 10 to 12 people in an apartment," Conley said, adding, "People are really afraid about what the future is going to bring."
"I dont think theres going to be any affordable housing [in Long Island City]," said Gary Blum, the director of conversion development at Greiner-Maltz, a brokerage firm based in Long Island City. Greiner-Maltz added residential brokerage to their commercial and industrial repertoire a few years ago after predicting that housing developments would soon replace Long Island Citys factories and warehouses.
They were right, but most of the developments so far are upscale, with developers trying to coax Manhattan professionals to luxury apartments that combine views of the Hudson and the skyline with a ten-minute subway ride to Midtown.
In Queens West, an area along the waterfront in Hunters Point, most of the new housing going up is expected to be market-rate except for one building that will offer 200 units of assisted-living, low-income housing for seniors.
Advocates of affordable housing complain that the city is missing an opportunity. "A lot of people will be displaced if affordable housing is not in the mix," said Julie Miles, a representative of the New York City Campaign for Inclusionary Zoning (IZNY). The campaign is pushing for the city to change its zoning law to require developers to build a certain percentage of affordable units of housing in high-density areas.
Currently, the city has a voluntary policy that offers developers some incentives to build affordable housing, but according to Miles, "fewer and fewer developers are opting into these programs."
City Council Resolution 373 supports mandatory inclusionary zoning, which would mean developers building in certain moderate-to-high density zones designated as "Affordable Housing Zoning Districts," would have to include a percentage of affordable housing in their designs.
But Mayor Bloomberg and the Department of City Planning (DCP), who have control over zoning changes, reject a mandatory inclusionary zoning program. "There are other ways of getting affordable housing," said Carol Abrams, a Housing and Preservation Department spokesperson.
Patrick Markee, a senior policy analyst for the Coalition for the Homeless, agrees that inclusionary zoning on its own is not the cure for the citys housing problems. "I dont think its going to create sufficient housing," said Markee, but added, "We absolutely feel that it should be one of the tools in the toolbox of affordable housing."
E-mail this reporter at sarah@queenscourier.com .

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