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NYC’s De Blasio unveils US$41B housing plan

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaking during a press conference at City Hall.

Mayor looks to prove credentials by providing 200,000 affordable units for city’s poor

NEW YORK — New York Mayor Bill de Blasio sought to prove his progressive credentials yesterday, as he unveiled plans to build and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing in the next decade, by increasing rent protections for the poor and requiring developers to include below-market apartments in zoned-off areas.

The US$41-billion progamme was presented by the mayor as a way to address income equality and will be paid for by city, state, federal and private funds. Around US$8.2 billion will come from the city, according to a report detailing the plan. Forty percent of the funds will be spent on new constructions, with 60 percent going toward “preservation.”

De Blasio, 52, a self-described progressive and the city’s first Democratic mayor in 20 years, took office in January, after an election campaign focused on income inequality. Since taking office, he has also won US$300 million from the state legislature to pay for universal all-day pre-kindergarten. Yesterday, he moved onto affordable housing.

“In a progressive city, everyone should have the opportunity for affordable housing, and that’s what this plan sets out to achieve,” de Blasio said at a press conference in Brooklyn. “It’s a housing plan, yes, but it’s also a plan to address income inequality.”

The 10-year plan was drafted under the supervision of Alicia Glen, a former executive at Goldman Sachs who now operates as deputy mayor for housing and economic development.

The mayor’s office will seek to provide 200 percent more “very-low income” housing (a four-person household earning between $25,151 and US$41,950 a year) and 50 percent more “moderate-income units” (a four-person household earning between US$67,121 and US$100,680 a year).

The proposals also include “mandatory inclusionary zoning,” in which developers would be required to build a certain percentage of low- and moderate-income housing in buildings that benefit from zoning changes that lift height restrictions.

City planners will now embark on a citywide effort to identify locations near mass transit access that may be appropriate for high-rise development that would include affordable units.

Developers required to restrict the cost of some of those units would benefit from new rules aimed at reducing delays by streamlining regulatory procedures, according to the report.

It would also double the city’s capital funding for housing to about US$6.7 billion over the next 10 years. But not all the numbers are confirmed for the plan — about US$30 billion in private capital will be sought from banks, pension funds and bond investors.

To protect tenants, city officials will “use every tool at its disposal” to prevent landlord harassment in rent-regulated buildings, according to the report. Landlords would also receive incentives to hold off on rent increases.

According to de Blasio, other goals for his administration include preventing and reducing homelessness, increasing supportive housing for the disabled and ill and providing more choices for senior citizens.

More than 50,000 people currently sleep in homeless shelters, according to the city’s Department of Homeless Services. About a third of the city’s 8.4 million residents spend at least half of their income on rent, according to the city’s Rent Guidelines Board.

De Blasio has called for more rent subsidies to tenants as a homeless prevention strategy.

Herald with Bloomberg

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