Council Cuts Deal With de Blasio to Rezone City for Affordable Housing

Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. (Photo: William Alatriste/NYC Council)

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced a new compromise with Mayor Bill de Blasio that will allow his sweeping plans to create affordable housing across the city to go forward—but with even more requirements for developers to build below-market apartments.

Ms. Mark-Viverito unveiled the agreement on the mayor’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability proposals at a press conference at City Hall. She said the City Council had “heard New Yorkers loud and clear” when they expressed discontent with the cost and quantity of the below-market rate housing that the original version of MIH and ZQA would have created.

“Our work has resulted in a plan that addresses the magnitude of our city’s affordability crisis, by encouraging smart, sustainable affordable housing creation,” she said. “The scope and magnitude of these proposals cannot be understated.”

Under the original de Blasio proposal, MIH would have changed zoning laws citywide to obligate developers to set aside a percentage of apartments for middle and lower-middle class tenants in new buildings. When reviewing a new project, the Council would choose what amount and level of affordability to mandate from a menu of options. The first option would require the builder to allocate a quarter of their new units to people making 60 percent of the federally-set area median income—meaning the apartments would be priced for a family of three making $47,000 annually.

The second would require the developer to set aside 30 percent of their new building for people making 80 percent of the area median income, or $62,000 for a family of three. The third—which troubled several council members—would allocate 30 percent of the apartments in a project to people making 120 percent of the AMI, or $93,000 for a family of three.

The new plan retains many of the same elements, except it creates new menu option that would require the builder to set aside 20 percent of the new units for tenants making an average of 40 percent of the AMI, or $31,000 for a family of three. In addition, the deal would tinker with the third option, reducing the income bracket to an average of 115 percent of the AMI, and requiring that the developer price one-sixth of the affordable units for families making 70 percent of the AMI, and another six for families making 90 percent.

The remaining balance of affordable apartments under the third option would be more expensive as a result, in order to average 115 percent AMI.

The mayor’s original ZQA plan would have relieved existing subsidized senior housing units of their burden to maintain parking lots, and encouraged them to build new buildings on the space, yielding as many as 2,000 new assisted living units.

Mr. de Blasio’s proposal would also have eliminated the requirement that new senior buildings create new parking, or slash the car accommodation obligation by 90 percent, depending on whether the facility is in a “transit zone”—that is, an area where relatively few seniors drive. To increase the stock of subsidized elderly housing, the mayor’s iteration of ZQA would also have loosened height restrictions to allow for an additional one or two floors of low-income senior housing in higher-density areas of the city.

The new plan eliminates or reduces the height increases in several of the zoning districts across the city, and forbids developers to build any market-rate units on the former parking spaces.

Mr. de Blasio praised Ms. Mark-Viverito, the Council and the deal in a statement.

“They have pushed every day to reach as many New Yorkers as possible and to protect our neighborhoods. We look forward to seeing these vital reforms enacted in the days ahead,” he said. “Years from now, we will look back on this as a watershed moment when we turned the tide to keep our city a place for everyone.”

Council Cuts Deal With de Blasio to Rezone City for Affordable Housing