In a historic decision made last night, the Rent Guidelines Board voted 7-2 last night to freeze rents for the first time on one-year leases for New York City’s more than one million rent-stabilized apartments. The board, entirely appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, also moved to increase rents on two-year leases by just two percent, the lowest in the board’s 46-year existence. The decision follows last week’s lackluster vote at the state level to only extend but not strengthen rent regulations. “Cuomo betrayed us, the RGB can save us,” tenants chanted at the meeting.
Thanks to a provision added to the newly extended and altered 421-a tax abatement passed last week, developers looking to segregate their wealthy tenants from their affordable rate renters will have to think again. According to The Post, Mayor de Blasio inserted a reform into the tax program plan that would ban the practice in which developers build a separate entrance for folks occupying the cheaper, below market-rate apartments in their buildings—better known as “poor doors.”
Photo via Wiki Commons
For many New Yorkers, public housing is the only affordable way to live in the city, but despite an ever-growing waiting list, thousands of these homes are sitting empty, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal about an audit of NYCHA by Comptroller Scott Stringer. At a release of the findings yesterday at the Raymond V. Ingersoll Houses in Brooklyn, Stringer said: “Even though 270,000 New Yorkers are on the waiting list for housing, desperate to put a roof above their heads, we found that NYCHA is sitting on over 2,000 apartments they identify as vacant.” The audit shows that 1,366 apartments are empty awaiting repairs, and 967 are between tenants.
Take everything you think you know about “affordable” alternatives to pricey neighborhoods and throw it out the window. This map from the Community Service Society (first shared by the Daily News) analyzes newly released census data that compares median rents between 2002 and 2014. The data is drawn from a New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Urban Development survey of 18,000 New Yorkers every three years who had recently moved, which “eliminates the tendency of lower rents paid by long-time tenants to smooth out market changes and mask the changes that affect tenants who are looking for a place to live,” according to CSS.
The report shows that rents citywide have increased 32 percent over the past 12 years, not a new or surprising figure. But it also shows drastic increases in neighborhoods that have been traditionally thought of as more affordable. Central Harlem saw the biggest jump at 90 percent; the average rent in 2002 for new residents was $821 and now it’s skyrocketed to $1,560. Other no-longer-affordable neighborhoods are Bed-Stuy at a 63 percent increase and Washington Heights/Inwood at 55 percent. The other ‘hoods topping the list include less surprising areas like Brooklyn Heights/DUMBO/Fort Greene at 59 percent and Williamsburg/Greenpoint at 53 percent.
Mayor de Blasio is expected to announce today the rollout of a ten-year plan to improve the city’s debt-and-disrepair-riddled public housing. According to the New York Times, plan items include–perhaps most notably–the leasing of land within a number of housing complexes to developers; other items include the transference of some New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) employees (and the $90 million a year it costs the agency to pay them) to other city agencies and increased rents as well as higher parking fees for residents.
City councilman Mark Levine announced Wednesday the creation of the Affordable Housing Preservation Taskforce, which will track existing affordable units across the city on the brink of becoming market rate. The task force is the latest in an effort to address the monumental task of preserving the city’s affordable housing.
According to Crain’s NY, the 14-member task force, which will be led by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, will work with residents, landlords and nonprofits to identify buildings headed toward market rate rent status. Rent regulation, for example, stipulates that rent can only be raised by a certain percentage each year as set by the New York City Rent Guidelines Board.
From the onset, Mayor de Blasio has been extremely vocal about his plan to add 200,000 units of affordable housing over 10 years, 80,000 of which will be new construction. Though many feel this is an arbitrary number, backed up by no data as to where the units will be, the Mayor seems committed to reforming current policies to reach his goal. And after months of speculation, he has revealed his planned changes to the city’s 421-a tax incentive program, which is set to expire in June.
According to the Times, under his proposal, the controversial tax would no longer apply to condo projects (to understand the logic behind this decision just look at the $100 million sale at One57 that received the tax abatement). But it would apply to new rental projects, which would have to have apartments for poor and working-class residents make up 20 to 30 percent of the building in order to qualify for city tax breaks. It would also extend the abatement from 25 years to 35 years. Another part of the overhaul is to eliminate so-called poor doors.
De Blasio also wants to up the city’s mansion tax. Currently, home sales over $1 million are subject to a 1 percent tax, but de Blasio proposes adding an additional 1 percent tax for sales over $1.75 million, as well as a third 1.5 percent tax for sales over $5 million. He estimates this will bring in an extra $200 million a year in tax revenue, money that would be allocated to affordable housing programs.
Norman Foster’s 551W21 under construction
The NYC luxury real estate market is as hot as ever and developers are scrambling to get in on the action. The Daily News reports that a record breaking $11.9 billion was poured into new developments last year, a 73 percent jump over the last 12 months, and up $5 billion over the previous record (source: New York Building Congress). While this rise may seem like great news in a city facing a serious housing crisis, the bounty going towards new construction isn’t doing much to remedy it. The paper adds that though spending is way up, the bulk of the cash is being funneled “into delivering only a few massive high-end pads with luxe finishes targeted at the global elite.”
Photo: Barry Pousman
NYC’s affordable housing crisis makes headlines daily, but while most are quick to point to the exploitation and mismanagement of existing apartments as the root of the cause (which to a great degree it most certainly is), the Washington Posts asks us to consider the effect single folks have on a city’s housing inventory.
Today, more and more folks are living longer and marrying later (if at all), and living alone at any given age no longer carries the stigma it once did decades ago. 26 percent of modern American households consist of just one person now, compared to the 1940s when this number topped out at just seven percent. While this dynamic shift seems more like a cause for celebration (yay, we’re evolving and defying convention) it does have some serious implications when it comes to available housing. “Our housing stock wasn’t built for a society full of singles,” says reporter Emily Badger.
Poor doors be damned. It looks like the anger and public outcry swirling around Extell’s new 50 Riverside Boulevard condo didn’t do much to deter New Yorkers from vying for a low-income unit at the building. The Times reports that the development company received a whopping 88,000 applications for the building’s 55 affordable apartments after they opened up the lines back in February.
The overwhelming demand is most certainly a win for developer Gary Barnett, who found himself in the hot seat for creating a separate entrance for low-income tenants, away from the market-rate residents. When speaking to the paper, Barnett called the whole poor door ordeal a “made-up controversy” adding to that “I guess people like it. It shows that there’s a tremendous demand for high-quality affordable housing in beautiful neighborhoods.”