Mandatory Inclusionary Housing Photo: Harold Navarro/Flickr

NYC is in the midst of a housing crisis. Nearly half of New Yorkers are hovering around the poverty line and last year, more than fifty percent of renters were rent-burdened, which means they spent more than a third of their income on paying their rent.

Mayor de Blasio’s mandatory inclusionary house plan, developed with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, would require a share of new housing to be permanently affordable. The practice of inclusionary housing has been around for years, though it remains an unfamiliar term for many.

The chief mechanism for the new inclusionary housing program has to do with zoning. If developers wish to be granted a change in zoning for a project, they would have to set a quarter of the units aside for affordable apartments. These units would be rented to families earning 60 percent of the area’s median income. Another option would be to require developers to reserve 30 percent of units for tenants who earn 80 percent of the area’s median income.

This is not the first time New York City has tried this method. In an article titled “De Blasio’s Doomed Housing Place,” Samuel Stein of Jacobin Magazine wrote that NYC started experimenting with inclusionary zoning in 1987, but a voluntary form of the program was implemented on a larger scale during the Bloomberg administration*. At that time, more than a third of city was rezoned in 122 targeted neighborhood actions.

The success of the program is debatable. Stein notes that “the affordable units created by Bloomberg’s inclusionary zoning account for just 1.7 percent of housing growth between 2005 and 2013. They failed to even match population growth, let alone deal with rising inequality.”

Developers, on the other hand, see promise in the mayor’s plan. Steven Spinola, the president of the Real Estate Board of New York, has long been supporter of similar measures. In February, he tweeted “ready to work w/ @BilldeBlasio to put shovels in the ground & cranes in sky to achieve housing goals -S Spinola.”

Developers can benefit from these city initiatives because they receive tax credits, zoning exceptions and the ability to build taller. Additionally, the inclusion of mixed-income housing means the arrival of overwhelmingly premium-priced housing.

Stein notes that gentrification in these instances is inevitable. “The mayor’s policies would build… more market-rate apartments in the same neighborhoods… Rents in the surrounding area will rise; neighborhood stores will close; more working-class people will be displaced by gentrification than will be housed in the new inclusionary complexes.”

Keep up-to-date on inclusionary housing at @bbhnyc.

*This article has been updated to distinguish between the inclusionary housing program instituted by Mayor Bloomberg which was voluntary and Mayor de Blasio’s inclusionary housing program which is mandatory.

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