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Affordable housing bill stalled

Renters in Woodside generally spend more than the recommended 30 percent of their income on housing, said Maria Ocasio, Director of Housing for the community group Woodside on the Move.
“Of course, it’s hard for them to pay the rent. It’s very hard,” Ocasio said, adding that the typical rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the area is about $1,100 or $1,200.
One woman told Ocasio, “By myself I am working … I can’t afford the rent payment. I had a roommate, but she moved out. She had to move out because of the cost of the rent.”
Moreover, four new affordable housing zones could have made units more practical for local residents, elected officials who championed the measure believe. However, the bill, a reform of 421-a exclusionary housing that passed both the Assembly and State Senate, stalled last month in Albany possibly because of additional breaks given to developers.
In a section of the bill, a $300 million tax abatement is allotted to the Forest City Ratner Companies - the development company behind the Atlantic Yards project, which is building the new Nets arena in Brooklyn. Although the developer has promised to include low- and middle-income housing in its plans, along with market-rate units, critics condemned the housing bill for not pushing the company to include more affordable units in return for the tax abatement.
Should another bill be put before legislators, several legislators hope that the provision for the Forest City Ratner Companies will be removed or altered. But even if Governor Eliot Spitzer vetoes the bill, the Assembly and Senate could vote to override.
In total, 20 affordable zones were to be designated in the city by state legislators recently. The four zones in Queens are in Woodside between 54th and 69th Streets, 39th Avenue and Broadway; in Hunter’s Point bounded by 10th Street and Jackson Avenue, 26th Avenue and Skillman Avenue; in Flushing bounded by the Van Wyck Expressway, College Point Boulevard and Fowler Avenue; and on the borders of Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, and Corona, between 69th and 94th Streets, 52nd Avenue and Northern Boulevard. Four areas in Manhattan, nine in Brooklyn, two in the Bronx and one in Staten Island would have also been designated.
The bill provided for 25-year property tax breaks to developers who make at least 20 percent of their units affordable to the low- and middle-income families. The building projects must have at least 50 units, and the units must be rent-stabilized for 40 years. To be eligible, a tenant must make less than 60 percent of the median income for the area, and the tenant’s rent is stabilized for as long as they live in the apartment.
“It would have been great to have all of Senate District 13 set aside as an exclusionary zone,” said Senator John Sabini, who joined Assemblymember Jose Peralta in applauding the measure to designate sections of Western Queens for affordable housing.

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