New York’s Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio offers new hope to housing advocates and developers who see his election as an opportunity to solve pressing issues in a city notorious for its unaffordable housing.
On Tuesday voters were celebrating the city’s first Democratic Mayor in 20 years. It is safe to say that affordable housing was one reason why an overwhelming 73% of New York voters elected de Blasio.
New Yorkers voted “for a new direction for our city,” de Blasio said at a party in Park Slope, Brooklyn. “The people of this city have chosen a progressive path.”
Hopes are high because the mayor-elect, whose political career began in the 1990s when he worked as an aide to Mayor David Dinkins, has a lot to offer.
During the Clinton administration, he was appointed regional director for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, “where he served under former secretary Andrew Cuomo to expand affordable housing for New Yorkers,” according to his official website.
In 2001, de Blasio joined the New York City Council where he represented District 39 in Brooklyn for eight years. Housing legislation is one of the highlights of his career as a council member. He is credited for writing landmark tenants’ rights legislation to protect affordable housing and end landlord discrimination.
Rezoning for affordable housing is the first bullet point in de Blasio’s housing policy.
“De Blasio’s housing platform has championed the mandatory inclusionary zoning,” which offers better leveraging of the city’s zoning authority, says Moses Gates, CAMP director for the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development.
Gates and other affordable housing advocates see mandatory inclusionary zoning as crucial to solving New York’s unaffordability problem.
Currently New York has a voluntary, incentive-based program that gives developers the option to build, create or preserve affordable housing in designated areas or elsewhere in the city in exchange for additional building permits, tax breaks and other city subsidies.
As of today less than 2% of applicants for a multifamily building permit voluntarily include affordable housing units. These projects have an expiration date that helps perpetuate the affordable housing shortage.
“A lot of new ideas about how to generate affordable housing for New Yorkers will be out there. I’d imagine that all previous discussions will be reopened,” Gates says.
Open questions about future housing developments include finding better ways to use the city’s land and zoning authority.
“The toolbox is limited,” he adds. Rezoning is one tool that, if effectively used, can create much needed, permanent affordable housing.