Bloomberg Casually Tweaks Affordable-Housing Ambitions; Thompson Offers Little Pushback

Four years ago, three weeks before his convincing defeat of Democratic challenger Freddy Ferrer, Mayor Bloomberg made a stop at a housing luncheon in midtown to unveil a grand $7.5 billion plan to build or preserve 165,000 units of below-market rate housing by 2013. The well-received plan was ambitious and politically adept: it more than doubled the scope of his existing 65,000-unit plan and blunted a policy edge Mr. Ferrer had held in the campaign up until that point: he was urging a 167,000-unit plan.

This time around, talk on affordable housing has been a bit more muted.

Last week, the Bloomberg campaign outlined the mayor’s plans for housing in a third term. There was no luncheon, no thunderous applause, and certainly nothing to slap on a bumper sticker.

The announcement–which took the form of a three-page document email blasted by the Bloomberg campaign–laid out a rejiggered version of the plan first revealed four years ago. Billed as the “next generation” of the earlier plan by the campaign, it represents both scaled-back ambitions amid a recession and a need to tackle new issues caused by the economic crisis.

But it also comes as the mayor is feeling almost no heat from his opponent on housing, which had been a key policy issue back in the 2005 mayor’s race.

This time, Mr. Bloomberg’s opponent, Comptroller Bill Thompson, has not emphasized the issue, nor does he have a numbers-specific plan to counter the mayor’s. His own policy paper focuses much on tenant-friendly legislation in Albany–including a law that would prohibit landlords from taking apartments out of rent stabilization–and a relatively vague call for a “21st Century Mitchell Lama program.” Generally, however, Mr. Thompson has exhibited no noticeable push on the issue politically. (Not that there’s no opening: Many housing advocacy groups had been expecting a push for permanent affordable housing during the campaign, given that most of the mayor’s programs have expiration dates, going market rate after 15 or 20 years.)

 

WITH NO ARMS RACE ON housing policy, Mr. Bloomberg has been content to mostly keep his housing ambitions as they were, leaving his new housing commissioner, Rafael Cestero, to produce an adjusted plan that both cuts back on costs (which had gone up since 2005) and tackles new issues such as foreclosures on properties large and small.