Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

January 14, 2014

How to Make NYC Affordable?

By David Reiss

The Community Service Society released a report, An Affordable Place to Live (written by Waters and Bach). The report is intended to state “What New Yorkers Want From the New Mayor” from the perspective of low-income New Yorkers. Given that Mayor De Blasio campaigned on the theme of a Tale of Two Cities, this report is very timely. It focuses on the “growing mismatch between rents and incomes” which results in low- and moderate-income New Yorkers paying a greater and greater percentage of their income in rent. (1)

The report’s recommendations include

  • eliminating the sizable payments that the New York City Housing Authority must pay to the City so that those monies can be invested in NYCHA’S strained operating and capital budgets.
  • implementing mandatory inclusionary zoning, a policy which the Mayor had highlighted during his campaign.
  • tying real estate tax exemptions to affordable housing.

There are a lot of good ideas in the report. But some of the ideas avoid the tough questions. For instance, the report argues that plans to infill NYCHA land with additional housing should be halted. Such a step would be inconsistent with other proposals in the report such as making affordable housing the highest priority for city-controlled land.

Another drawback of the report is that it did not attempt to quantify how much housing its proposals would actually create or preserve. This may be beyond the scope of what the authors intended, but I was left with the impression that even if many of the proposals were adopted, they would fail to actually make a big dent in the affordability issue that they identify.

That being said, the report is a very helpful contribution to what will be an essential and ongoing policy discussion during the De Blasio Administration.

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