Bay Ridge

De Blasio takes bow after winning affordable housing fight

March 28, 2016 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Mayor Bill de Blasio enters a town hall in Bay Ridge on Feb. 16. Photo by Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photo Office
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Fresh off his big victory in the affordable housing fight, Mayor Bill de Blasio took a bow, sending an email out to Democratic supporters boasting that his grand plan will secure 200,000 affordable apartments by the year 2024.

“Wherever I go in our city, people from all walks of life come up to me, literally grabbing me by the arm, all saying the same thing: ‘I’ve got to talk to you, because I don’t know if I can afford to stay here. I don’t know if I’m going to be priced out of my own city,’” de Blasio wrote in an email that went out to thousands of supporters on March 23. 

“We won’t let people be pushed aside because they can’t afford this city,” the mayor wrote.

With the plan winning the overwhelming approval of the City Council on March 22, “we won the most progressive, strongest affordable housing requirements in the country — something that means this will remain our city for generations,” de Blasio wrote.

The mayor’s affordable housing plan is actually made up of two proposals — Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA). Mandatory Inclusionary Housing mandates that property owners set aside a certain percentage of units for affordable housing when constructing new buildings. ZQA will usher in major changes in the city’s zoning laws.

The council votes weren’t even close. Members approved Mandatory Inclusionary Housing by a vote of 42-5. ZQA passed 40-6 with one abstention.

“We just changed the rules of the game in two major ways. First — New York City now has the strongest affordable housing requirement for developers of any city in the nation. Our new rules say that developers can only build in newly rezoned neighborhoods if they build affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families. Second — we made major updates to decades-old land-use rules — rules from a time before anyone could imagine the cost of housing being what it is today. Our new rules have cleared the way to build more senior affordable housing more quickly, because our elders deserve to live in dignity in the communities they helped to build,” the mayor wrote.

The mayor won his battle despite early and vociferous opposition. Nearly every one of the city’s 59 community boards, including several boards in Brooklyn, voted to recommend that their councilmembers vote against the plan.

In the Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights area, Community Board 10 members voted in November to reject the mayor’s plan. Members expressed concern that zoning laws would be changed to allow high-rise buildings to be constructed in the two neighborhoods, which are currently dominated by low-density housing.

On the eve of a council vote, Councilmember Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-parts of Bensonhurst) appeared before Community Board 10 to explain his reasons for supporting of the mayor’s plan.

Gentile said the council negotiated with the de Blasio administration to get significant changes made to the mayor’s original blueprint, including opening up the definition of affordable housing to cover more of the city’s middle class.

Under the new version of the plan, a middle class option is included, according to Gentile, who said that now, a family of three earning between $95,000 and $100,000 a year would still be eligible to qualify for affordable housing units.

“We had to fight for that,” Gentile told the community board.

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