Nearly four years after unveiling a plan to build a giant middle income development along the Queens waterfront, the Bloomberg administration today sent out a request for proposals to find a developer to kick off the first two sites on a strip of land near Long Island City. The first phase of the project, called Hunter’s Point South, calls for 1,000 apartments to be built in the southwestern corner of Queens, with at least 600 of them available to families making between $63,000 and $130,000 (for a family of four).
This project, however, is by no means the fastest moving in the mayor’s portfolio. It was first announced in 2006, with planners gradually plodding away on planning and infrastructure work ever since. While planned city-led developments such as Coney Island and Willets Point have seen their budgets rise or stay flat, Hunter’s Point South’s budget has been cut substantially, and there is not enough funding for the full 5,000 apartment project.
One thing that is clear from this is that middle income housing is not cheap to build.
Despite the fact that the land is owned by the city (i.e. developers don’t have to buy it on their own) and 40 percent of the apartments will be market rate waterfront property, the city is still offering subsidy of to $90,000 per moderate- and middle-income apartment. (The RFP says that bids “will be rated based on providing the most affordability with the least subsidy.”)
This is in part because, unlike projects that contain some low-income apartments, the development is not expected to be eligible for tax-exempt financing, adding a substantial cost.
And unlike low-income housing, there’s not a ton of precedent nationally for middle-income developments of this scale, given that in much of the rest of the country, city governments leave the private market to develop middle income housing on its own. The impetus in New York City is that there’s a housing shortage, and if the market were left to its own devices, it would make it hard for anyone making a teacher’s or firefighter’s salary to find housing anywhere close to central Manhattan.