The East New York Community Plan is a comprehensive City-supported neighborhood initiative meant to promote affordable housing and development in Brooklyn’s East New York, Cypress Hills and Ocean Hill areas. But a recent analysis from NYC Comptroller Scott M. Stringer says the plan could price almost 50,000 low income residents out of their neighborhoods.
The plan is far-reaching. Besides seeking to preserve and expand affordable housing, it includes code enforcement reforms, free legal representation for tenants, a Tenant Harassment Task Force and a Green Housing Preservation program.
Though Stringer concludes that supply of housing units would go up under the plan, 84 percent of residents would be unable to afford newly created market rate housing and 55 percent would be unable to afford the “affordable” units.
His criticism lies with the plan’s mechanism for promoting new affordable housing: rezoning via Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA). MIH sets aside a quarter of new units in a development for affordable apartments. These units are rented to families earning 60 percent of the area’s median income. Alternatively under MIH, developers may reserve 30 percent of units for tenants who earn 80 percent of the area’s median income. ZQA complements MIH with limits on the use, size, and footprints of buildings, to promote a neighborhood’s character and diversity.
The primary issue, according to Stringer’s analysis, lies with the Area Median Income (AMI) metric used to calculate who qualifies for affordable housing. Stringer says it “fails to take into account vast differences across the NYC metro area,” because its calculation encompasses all five boroughs. Using the AMI, median income may seem artificially high in outer boroughs, propped up by soaring Manhattan incomes. Even using this method, only 45 percent of area residents would be able to afford the new housing.
Instead, Stringer suggests that the City should create a “more customized benchmark that more adequately reflects a community’s median income levels.” Such a benchmark would use more localized data, possibly pulling from the American Community Survey or a newly commissioned independent study.
A public hearing will be held January 6th at 10am at the Brooklyn Borough Hall Court Room. The Planning Commission also invites written comments.