The new state budget that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature agreed to last week includes a new program for affordable housing in New York City. Just don’t expect it to do much.
The new Affordable New York Housing Program lets developers of rental apartment buildings off the hook for property taxes for 35 years. In exchange, developers must pay construction workers a living wage and set aside 25-30% of apartments for low- or middle-income renters. It’ll create 2,500 affordable apartments at a cost to New York City of $82 million each year.
The Need is Great
Existing affordable housing options are already overloaded. The Pacific Park project (formerly Atlantic Yards) in Prospect Heights received over 176,000 applications for 479 apartments in two buildings. That’s a 0.3% chance of getting an apartment.
It’s even worse for people who actually want an affordable apartment. 67,000 households applied for just 90 low-income apartments. While the details of each lottery are highly complex, those included individuals earning below $38,100 trying to get a one-bedroom. With 60,000 homeless New Yorkers, many already working a full-time job and still unable to afford housing, those are stark odds.
However, for low-income people, the challenges are actually even greater. According to an analysis by Norman Oder, over 12,000 applicants to the Pacific Park lotteries earn too little to actually get an affordable housing apartment, a cruel irony for many.
Other Options Are Even Worse
That person earning $38,100 would pay $929 for a one-bedroom at 535 Carlton Ave. In contrast, according to RentHop listings, the lowest-priced one-bedroom in any nearby neighborhood is $1,895, and that’s almost two miles away in southern Park Slope. The general rule of thumb is that someone should earn 40 times their monthly rent which means that someone would need to earn more than $75,000 to afford that market-rate apartment.
Meanwhile, those 60,000 New Yorkers who can’t afford anything now are facing new challenges. Mayor Bill de Blasio called for 90 new homeless shelters but it’s not going well. A lawsuit just blocked one from opening in Crown Heights, near the Pacific Park development. Even a supporter of the new shelters, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said he shared many opponents’ concern. The shelters, as important as they are, aren’t enough, though. They won’t change the fundamental situation that vast numbers of New Yorkers can’t afford rent.
It’s no wonder that politicians are desperate to be seen addressing the affordable housing crisis. Just don’t expect a few thousand apartments to do wonders.