By Konrad Putzier
With Mayor Bill de Blasio set to announce his affordable housing plan this week, some advocates and industry insiders are calling on the administration to focus on low-income New Yorkers rather than the middle class.
Seth Pinsky, who ran the city’s Economic Development Corporation under der Blasio’s predecessor Michael Bloomberg, argued that middle-income New Yorkers aren’t facing an immediate housing crisis.
“The middle class is not priced out of the city, but priced out of neighborhoods,” Pinsky said at a breakfast panel hosted by advisory and accounting firm EisnerAmper and Bloomberg last Thursday. “While it’s true that some neighborhoods have become unaffordable, others have become more attractive. I think that’s a good thing.
“It may be disruptive for individuals, but I don’t think we as a city need to be concerned about it.”
The middle-class migration into neighborhoods like Bushwick, Crown Heights or Harlem, however, is pushing low-income residents out of the city altogether. This, Pinsky argued, is the real immediate crisis that can be alleviated by building affordable housing for low-income New Yorkers.
“I hope that’s where the city centers its resources,” said Pinsky, who recently joined RXR to head the developer’s push into New York City’s outer markets.
De Blasio is scheduled to announce by Thursday, May 1, how he plans to meet his target of 200,000 new affordable housing units. Some observers reckon his plan will prioritize the creation of middle-income over low-income housing.
On Monday, the advocacy group Association for Neighborhood Housing and Development (ANHD) joined Pinsky in opposing such priorities.
“Everyone suffers from the housing crunch here, but the greatest resources must be put toward very low-income New Yorkers, the population with the greatest need — and a population that was left out of the last plan,” the group said in a press release.
It added that one third of New Yorkers currently don’t even make enough money to meet salary requirements for
affordable housing units.
While middle-income New Yorkers aren’t being priced out of the city yet, this may change in the future — at least according to Pinsky. He argued that the best way to stave off a future middle-income housing shortage is to build more, improve public safety in emerging neighborhoods and improve transportation infrastructure to outer markets.
“Prices are rising at a faster pace than incomes. That’s not sustainable in the long term,” Pinsky said at the EisnerAmper panel, where he shared the stage with Access Industries’ Jonah Sonnenborn, Mack Real Estate Group’s David Schore, Boies, Schiller & Flexner’s Michael Kosnitzky and EisnerAmper’s Kenneth Weissenberg to discuss the current state of the New York City market.
“At one point we’ll run out of the next neighborhood,” he added.
A new study by NYU’s Furman Center found that the median rent in New York City rose by 11 percent between 2005 and 2012, while the median household income of renters only rose by two percent. This trend has left more than half of all renter households paying more than 30 percent of their income on rent by 2012.
One third of renter households are “severely rent burdened”, paying more than a half of their combined income on rent.
“Finding affordable housing in New York City is challenging,” Max Weselcouch, director of the NYU Furman Center’s Moelis Institute for Affordable Housing Policy, said in a press release. “Conditions have worsened in the last few years and have disproportionately affected the city’s poorest.”