February 8, 2016
CITY REGULARLY APPROVES OVERSIZED DEVELOPMENTS
IN AFFORDABLE HOUSING ZONES
WITHOUT REQUIRED AFFORDABLE HOUSING,
Contact: Andrew Berman, Exec. Dir., Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation
212-475-9585 x38 or 917-533-1767
Manhattan – An investigation by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) has found that the City is guilty of regularly approving permits for oversized new developments which lack required affordable housing in ‘Inclusionary Housing’ districts. In these zoning districts, increases in allowable size of new developments are linked to the inclusion of affordable housing. All the developments identified by GVSHP were allowed to be built at the larger sizes without providing any affordable housing. The revelation comes as the Mayor proposes to lift height limits in these areas to supposedly encourage more developers to include affordable units in their buildings, when apparently the City itself has been undermining and ignoring existing rules and incentives for providing affordable housing.
See letter to the Mayor and documentation here. The developments identified by GVSHP’s investigation are:
• 84 3rd Avenue/138 East 12th Street (“The Nathaniel”)
• 152-154 2nd Avenue
• 118 East 1st Street
• 438 East 12th Street
• 67 Avenue C
GVSHP’s investigation looked at new developments in the East Village’s ‘Inclusionary Housing’ (IH) zoning districts, which cover almost every avenue in the neighborhood and Houston Street. As in all IH districts, the zoning limits how many square feet a new development can contain without including affordable housing. If the developer agrees to include affordable housing amounting to 20% of the total square footage, the development can increase its square footage by 33%, thus allowing additional market-rate as well as affordable square footage. GVSHP was part of the coalition which pushed for and secured such ‘Inclusionary Housing’ zoning for the East Village in 2008 and 2010. Similar districts with the same affordable housing rules and incentives are mapped all across the city.
However, as per the documentation by GVSHP, according to Department of Buildings records, in at least five cases over the last several years the City has approved new developments with greater square footage than allowed for market-rate developments, without requiring any affordable housing either on-site or off, as mandated by law. The result is larger buildings with more market-rate space than zoning allows, and none of the affordable housing to which the public is entitled in return.
The revelation comes as the Mayor’s plan to lift height limits in these types of zoning districts comes before the City Council for review on Wednesday. The Mayor has pointed to developers not always opting to include affordable housing units in new developments in these districts as a rationale for his plan to lift the current height limits. The Mayor has not mentioned that the Department of Buildings is granting developers additional market-rate square footage without providing the required affordable housing, and thus undermining the incentive for developers to include the affordable units. By contrast, analysis by GVSHP and others have shown that the height limits the Mayor proposed to change actually do not impede or disincentivize the inclusion of affordable units.
GVSHP Executive Director Andrew Berman said: “For years the City has been letting developers in our neighborhood get away with building oversized buildings, with additional market-rate square footage which they are only supposed to receive in exchange for providing affordable housing. It’s of great detriment to our neighborhood and our city that our light and air are being given away, our streets are being made more crowded, and we are getting none of the affordable housing we are entitled to in return. It’s particularly disappointing as the Mayor claims that affordable housing is his administration’s number one priority. It’s ironic that the Mayor tells us we need to give up the neighborhood height limits we fought years to secure in order to allow for more affordable housing. Those height limits aren’t interfering with the construction of affordable housing; the city’s policy of giving away extra building bulk to developers without getting the required affordable housing in return is. We and countless other neighborhood groups and affordable housing advocates worked hard to craft our current zoning rules to encourage new affordable housing while maintaining appropriate limits on new development in our neighborhood. The city’s failure to enforce those rules and give away our light and air, and give up needed affordable housing, undermines all that good work.”
James Rodriguez of GOLES (Good Old Lower East Side) said: "The results of GVSHP'S thorough investigation into the City's zoning violations are deeply disconcerting, not only because they have occurred unchecked over several years, but also repeatedly targeted the Lower East Side, and worked in favor of market-rate development at the expense of much needed affordable housing. We call on the City to immediately cease and investigate this practice, and take measures to ensure our neighborhood receives the affordable housing it needs and was guaranteed. This new evidence also casts further doubt on the already contested upcoming Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) and Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) proposals -- if zoning is truly a tool designed to serve the public good, why have the City's actions consistently proven otherwise?" GOLES is a neighborhood housing and preservation organization that has served the Lower East Side of Manhattan since 1977, dedicated to tenant’s rights, homelessness prevention, economic development, and community revitalization. Like GVSHP, GOLES helped push for and secure the Inclusionary Housing zoning for the East Village/Lower East Side which is supposed to cap the height of new development while encouraging the creation of new affordable housing.
The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation is calling upon the Mayor to take action immediately to stop this practice. This would include revoking permits for not-yet-completed buildings such as 438 East 12th Street, and requiring the removal of space which exceeds the allowable zoning square footage in those which have already been constructed, or providing the required amount of affordable housing to justify the additional space.