Affordable for whom? Many Brooklynites make too little to benefit from mayors’ housing proposal: Comptroller

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Money doesn't lie: Comptroller Scott Stringer says the mayor's proposed low-income housing won't be affordable for most Brooklynites.

Mayor DeBlasio must re-tool his plan to force developers to create affordable housing, because the scheme won’t help low-income residents who need it most, says the city’s top accountant.

The citywide proposal is too broad, said Comptroller Scott Stringer, and officials should instead tailor it to specific neighborhoods.

“One-size-fits-all doesn’t work for all New York City,” said Stringer, who hit out at the mayor’s plan last week. “We must find ways to ensure community-based development is the way we move forward together.”

DeBlasio’s so-called Mandatory Inclusionary Housing proposal would require developers seeking to rezone land to set aside a certain percentage of the units they build there at below-market-rate rent.

Developers would have the option of dedicating one-quarter of new developments to households making around $46,620 a year — for a family of three — or 30 percent of units for households earning around $62,160.

This is the same whether they are building in Canarsie or Chelsea.

The city categorizes households earning such wages as “low-income,” because they are lower than what the richest half of households earn.

But the way those figures are determined is inherently flawed, Stringer said.

The income thresholds are based on the so-called “area median income” — the median wages of the five boroughs and high-earning suburban Putnam, Westchester, and Rockland counties. As a result, households can be making less than half of the median — currently $77,700 a year — and yet still way more than those who are really struggling in some Brooklyn neighborhoods.

Bushwick and parts of Williamsburg, for example, boast median incomes of just $36,000 and $40,000, census data shows. Assigning housing for households earning $62,160 puts it out of reach of those who currently live in Bushwick and are most at risk of having to leave due to rising rents, residents told this paper last month.

In Coney Island and Seagate, an area poised for development, the median is a scant $23,324 — just 30 percent of the seven-county median.

The city contends that it has other ways of creating housing for the lowest earners.

In East New York — which the city plans on rezoning and using as a testing ground for mandatory inclusionary housing — it is offering construction subsidies for developers who create buildings with only below-market-rate rents for three-person households earning between $23,350 and $38,850, a financial report shows. The city could use such subsidies in other areas in the future, a mayoral spokesman said.

But even the more fleshed-out East New York proposal relies too heavily on assumptions about how developers — who are ultimately out to make a profit — will behave, a Stinger spokesman said.

“This rezoning proposal provides no sites, no developers, and no details,” Stringer spokesman Eric Sumberg said. “The difference between a plan and a goal is that plans have details, whereas goals are merely aspiration­al.”

The mandatory inclusionary housing proposal is currently making its way through public review. Community boards have weighed in — 10 voted against the measure, six supported it, and one board abstained. The borough board — composed of Borough President Adams, representatives from the 18 community boards, and council members — also voted against the proposal 20–1 with two abstentions. The City Planning Commission is now reviewing the plans before passing them on to Council for a vote some time in early 2016.

All for none: Many Brooklynites won’t be eligible for new, “affordable” apartments now being proposed by Mayor DeBlasio. This map shows that many living in the borough’s poorest neighborhoods make less than 60 percent of the so-called “area median income” — putting them out of the running for the discounted living spaces, according to Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Community News Group / Dennis Lynch

Reach reporter Allegra Hobbs at or by calling (718) 260–8312.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Mike from Williamsburg says:
Distributing something as important as housing on the basis of luck is bad policy to begin with, but this complaint is a bit much.
Dec. 10, 2015, 10:05 am
Matt from Greenpoint says:
Just hand out free power ball lottery tickets and call it a day.
Dec. 10, 2015, 3:51 pm
jay from nyc says:
not to mention that this does nothing for, say, the cop and teacher who have one kid and make $110,000 they have to try and find a market rate 2 bedroom,which on that salary is pretty tough. Especially once you factor in the tax rate.Its noce to help out those on the really low end of things, but what about everyone else
Dec. 10, 2015, 6:02 pm
Jay must be kidding says:
I'll never ever worry about a family that makes over $100k.
Dec. 11, 2015, 5:26 pm
JAY from NYC says:
well then YOU just don't get it because in NYC, 100k is only slightly above low income, but they don't qualify for any programs.
And if you don't care about a family that makes over 100k, then why should they care about you?
Why should they just not tell you to go hell and die and stop eating up their money with your housing subsidies?
Moreover, It is perverse that a person making 30K can OWN a 3 bed room apartment, with subsidized parking, paid for by tax payers, but a person trying to raise a family on 100k can barely afford to RENT a two bed room apartment. Thats what we have right now and its not working so well for alot of people.
Affordable housing needs to be for EVERYONE other wise you only get rich people and poor people living off the rich who can live here.
Dec. 11, 2015, 10:49 pm

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