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REBNY Watch Views

Time to get serious on issue of housing all New Yorkers

By REBNY President John Banks

Most everyone agrees that one of the greatest challenges facing New York City is the dire need to create more housing, especially affordable housing.

Anyone who’s searched for an apartment recently knows the truth; that we are facing a housing crisis.

Photo by sanchez jalapeno/ Flickr
Photo by sanchez jalapeno/ Flickr

It is a crisis that we cannot and will not solve unless we are willing to allow more housing to be constructed in every neighborhood.

The good news is that this challenge is largely born out of the great success we’ve experienced across the five boroughs.

Record-breaking tourism and population growth have proven New York City is growing faster than anyone had planned. Job growth numbers are up and experts are predicting another million people will move to Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island by 2040.

Today, we must focus on building enough housing to meet demand at all income levels — we must build housing at record numbers in virtually every neighborhood if we are going to start to alleviate our affordable housing crisis.

Not doing so will mean finding a place to live will become even more difficult and, as a result, more expensive.

Since we can’t manufacture any more new land, we must permit more bulk in existing residential neighborhoods and housing in underutilized industrial areas no longer suitable or desirable for industrial activity.

Yes, this may mean constructing taller buildings than currently exist. However, we cannot continue to permit local opposition driven by subjective architectural taste or spawned by demographic changes to thwart housing, especially affordable housing.

We must be willing to accept greater density — appropriately placed and complemented by essential infrastructure investment — in order to meet our growing needs.

In spite of all these realities, last week, the very first project to come along under the City’s new Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy was not approved due to the opposition of the local community. The proposal would have created approximately 175 units of affordable housing in Inwood.

This marks a disappointing, missed opportunity to approve a project that would have been 50 percent affordable. The owners of the site are now under no obligation to build any affordable units; they can now build, as of right, a slightly smaller building with 100 percent market rate units.

Earlier this month, the City Planning Commission (CPC) unanimously approved Phipps Houses’ plan to build a 10-story, 209-unit building with 100 percent mixed-income affordable housing in Sunnyside, Queens.

Following the vote, CPC Chairman Carl Weisbrod said in a statement that the decision “advanced key elements of the Administration’s strategies to address the City’s housing crisis,” – sentiments which one can only hope will be internalized by the City Council before the plan is to be voted on during the final step in the process.

Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, the redevelopment plans surrounding the Long Island College Hospital could pose an equally clear choice about whether we are serious about our commitment to affordable housing.

In this case, as with the Inwood project, the choice is either market-rate condos and a community facility with no affordable housing, or low-income apartments, retail, and other mixed-use buildings.

As the communities of Inwood, Sunnyside, and Cobble Hill grapple with the important affordable housing issues we face as a city and the neighborhood character concerns that come with each of these projects, let’s not lose sight of the bigger picture and the real hardships that low-income New York households encounter.

Those who have previously embraced the need to create more affordable housing should not forget that New York City is a city of renters: two-thirds of New Yorkers currently fall into this category.

We must build rental housing to ensure that both future and current residents have an affordable place to live. It is quite simply the right thing to do.

The alternative would be to perpetuate our affordable housing crisis and turn incoming New Yorkers away.

A city that is unable to grow is a city that is beginning to die. Let’s continue to make New York City thrive by building new housing for all income groups throughout the five boroughs.

In other REBNY News:

For our 8th Annual Summer Donation Drive, we’re working with The Bowery Mission to serve homeless and hungry New Yorkers. Through September 9, REBNY’s members are encouraged to donate soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, shaving cream and more new items to help restore dignity and respect to our city’s homeless community.

REBNY’s residential agents are looking at their deals to see what could be a contender for the 28th Annual Residential Deal of the Year Charity and Awards Gala to be held at Pier 60 at Chelsea Piers on Wednesday, October 26th, 2016. The deadline for all submissions is Friday, September 16, 2016 at 5:00 p.m. The application forms for the Deal of the Year Awards, Henry Forster Award for Lifetime Achievement, and Rookie Salesperson of the Year Award, along with ticket reservation information can be found at www.rebny.com. For sponsorship opportunities, please contact Jeanne Oliver-Taylor at JTaylor@rebny.com or at 212-616-5261.

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