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Deals & Dealmakers

City Council approves MIH, ZQA in lopsided vote

The biggest components of the mayor’s affordable housing plan have just sailed through the New York City Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises. Earlier today, officials approved the De Blasio administration’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) proposals with identical lopsided votes of 15-2-1.

Photo by Marcela/ Flickr
Photo by Marcela/ Flickr

MIH requires developers to build affordable housing in areas rezoned to allow more housing projects. The mayor’s plan set aside affordable apartments priced at 60 percent of the area median income. With the council’s intervention, that threshold has been lowered to as low as 40 percent. In total, the below market rate units would come to a quarter of all units built, with about 40 percent of affordable units priced at 40 percent of the area median income.

Meanwhile, ZQA allows buildings that contain affordable and senior housing units to grow taller. The plan essentially raised the height limits in certain neighborhoods by five to 15 feet, in hopes that developers would be motivated to create more affordable units.

The plans were approved after major revisions. The earlier version of the proposals were criticized for not going far enough to ensure housing for poor New Yorkers. If the plans deliver as promised, it would help the mayor deliver on his promise of building and maintaining 200,000 affordable housing units.

“I am very happy with the changes that the Council made to MIH and ZQA, and as a result, we can move forward on this rezoning that will allow us to take a significant step toward creating the affordable housing that New Yorkers desperately need,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick.

Garodnick attributed his “yes” vote to changes such as the removal of all increased heights for market rate housing below 96th Street in Manhattan and improvements to the evaluation process for MIH waivers.

In spite of the lopsided vote, opposition remains for the proposals. Jumaane Williams, one of the council members who voted “no” on the plans, said that the proposals did not go far enough in providing housing for poor New Yorkers.

“Unfortunately, the current plan still does not require enough of a mandatory minimum amount of low-income units, and so today, I have no choice but to vote ‘no,’” he said.

“Affordability should not be an opt-in policy. We need a Mandatory Inclusionary Housing plan that works for all New Yorkers, in all neighborhoods, especially our most vulnerable.”

Council Member Inez Barron, whose constituency includes the Brooklyn neighborhood of East New York, voted against both MIH and ZQA. The other dissenting votes came from Williams (against MIH) and Bronx Council Member Andy Cohen (against ZQA).

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