Meet Shaun Donovan, Affordable Housing’s Man of the Hour

In general, is the Bloomberg administration supportive of greater controls, extending rent regulation in other ways, or keeping rent increases low?

What I would say is, it’s not enough. It has not been the major focus of our efforts. One of the reasons is, recognize that rent stabilization doesn’t target units to particular income groups. Rent stabilization only controls the rents; it does not require certain income levels to live in those units.

So we think it’s more efficient and effective in terms of creating new units to target those units to low- and moderate-income people. We need to go beyond what rent stabilization does, which is just keep rents lower, but not make sure people who really need the housing the most end up living in those units.

I understand you were unhappy with the state’s 421a tax abatement bill, which changed the popular development incentive. What are your concerns?

We are in continuing discussions over that. The concern, one of the concerns that we have about the bill that was passed, is that it removes all of our flexibility to do moderate-income projects. It would require that every single project that gets 421a benefits, within the exclusion zones, to have a low-income component; and while our focus has been on low-income, we also have a significantly expanded middle-class housing initiative. Queens West is one example.

We’re also concerned about the exclusion zones. The South Bronx, for example, is clearly not an area where we think it’s appropriate to expand the exclusion zone. And then, third, we’re concerned about the level of benefits that the bill would provide to a hand-picked group of developers—the Atlantic Yards provision, which, by our count, gives $300 million in tax benefits to Atlantic Yards.

Now, if we could solve the broader issue around middle-income housing, we could get to a solution that would reduce their benefits but also allow the project to proceed.

Meet Shaun Donovan, Affordable Housing’s Man of the Hour