A New Housing
By Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
New York City’s success story—our achievements in reducing crime, reforming our schools, and building our economy in all five boroughs—is creating a major new challenge: providing affordable housing for all those who want to share in our success.
To meet that challenge, we’ve launched the largest affordable housing initiative ever undertaken by any American city. As I pledged in the State of the City, we’re moving ahead on building and preserving 165,000 units of affordable housing by 2013—enough housing for half a million New Yorkers. We’re doing that without raising taxes, because we’ve found creative ways to use the city’s hot housing market for the greater public good.
For example, we’re making better use of public dollars, public land, and rezoning of waterfront and old industrial areas to spur private developers to build some 92,000 new houses and apartments—and in the process, promote ethnically and economically diverse neighborhoods.
We have, for instance, identified under-used sites throughout the city that are suitable for residential development, and are controlled by a variety of City and State agencies. Building housing on this public land will keep construction costs down, and many affordable apartments on these sites will be subsidized by the construction of neighboring market-rate units. The result: 20,000 new affordable homes going up over the next few years on land now largely sitting idle.
Then there’s something we call “inclusionary zoning.” It permits developers to build bigger apartment buildings in exchange for keeping a portion of the apartments—in some cases up to a third of them—affordable. This will produce thousands of new affordable apartments in parts of Greenpoint-Williamsburg and on the Far West Side of Manhattan.
We’re also working to preserve 73,000 affordable apartments. The rents of many of them are kept at below market levels by State and Federal subsidies. The City can help too, by assisting the owners of such buildings in refinancing and rehabilitating their properties, so that they remain safe and comfortable, as well as affordable.
We’re going to need continued strong Federal partnership in this effort. I stressed that point in a speech that I gave about housing policy in Washington last week. Because while the private market has to take the lead in creating affordable housing, developers need to know that government will be a dependable partner. New York City’s experience over the past four years shows just what this kind of effective partnership can produce: record-high housing starts and homeownership rates, and a new sense of hope in communities across the city, as people see housing going up that is geared to families at all income levels.
Not so long ago, many
of our neighborhoods suffered from widespread housing abandonment. Now
that’s a rapidly fading memory; today, the challenge
isn’t abandonment, but affordability. We’re meeting that challenge
by defying the conventional wisdom that says that a hot housing market works
against the development of affordable housing. Instead, we’re finding
ways to spur the market to create housing for everyone.