Civic leader calls for reform to affordable housing laws in light of Sunnyside development

By Mark Hallum

After a listing on NYC Housing Connect showed an affordable housing development in Sunnyside would cost potential renters $2,251 for a one-bedroom apartment, civic leader Brent O’Leary called for reforms to the metric used to calculate the rates of rent-subsidized units.

The current inclusionary housing laws use take into account the incomes across the region to determine the area median income of a neighborhood and according to activists, often results in many low-income neighborhoods experiencing displacement.

O’Leary stood across the street from the Sunnyside Point development at 47-16 Greenpoint Ave. Friday to call for immediate action from elected officials to introduce legislation for reform.

“Right now, there are thousands of Sunnyside and Woodside residents who are deeply afraid of being priced out of their own neighborhood, and by claiming that $2,300 a month should be considered affordable is a slap in the face to all the people who call this neighborhood home,” O’Leary said. “These units are not priced to provide help for hardworking individuals who live in this district, because the formula that is being used by the city to determine affordability is profoundly broken.”

To qualify for a unit at Sunnyside Point, renters would have to rake in an annual income of $77,178 to $122,070, according to the listing on NYC Housing Connect.

O’Leary recently announced his intention to run for City Council in the district now represented by City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Jackson Heights), who is up against a term limit in 2021.

“I am calling for city legislation that reforms how affordability is calculated at rent-subsidized units, so that this housing can actually be affordable to the people who live here,” O’Leary continued. “This is the most effective way we can put a stop to the growing wealth inequality and massive displacement that western Queens has been facing over the past 10 years.”

O’Leary is not the only candidate calling for rent reform.

State Assembly Brian Barnwell (D-Woodside) voiced interest in a recent interview with TimesLedger in making future affordable housing less costly by adjusting the formula used to calculate area median income, which incorporates income levels throughout the region, as opposed to the zip code of the development. Barnwell sees the zip code as a better indicator of the neighborhood’s financial standing.

The Elmhurst community recent fended off a development that was not as affordable as it would seem.

Sun Equity Partners and Heskel Group had filed a ULURP application with the city in March to build 13 stories of affordable units at an 82nd Street lot.

About 40 percent of the units were projected to meet an annual median income of $61,000, but members of Community Board 4 and activists claimed this number was not realistic for the community.

Although the developers brought the rates of the affordable units down to meet and Adjustable Median Income of $41,000, members of the community were not satisfied and the ULURP application was withdrawn.

A Target store will be built at the location with no above housing.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

More from Around New York