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NYC Mayor Adams Is Hopeful but Realistic About Affordable Housing

To meet his goal of 500,000 new homes in the next decade, the New York City mayor has proposed new approaches to address the housing crisis, including creating incentives, single-room occupancies and more.

(TNS) — Mayor Eric Adams is hopeful about expanding New York City's affordable housing options but says it will require a new approach, changing policy at the state level, and considering all income levels.

The mayor outlined some of his ideas to reach his goal of building 500,000 new homes in the city within the next 10 years during an interview with WNYC and Gothamist editor Josefa Velásquez on Monday.

When asked what he considers to be affordable housing, Adams said there are three levels of income integral to the housing conversation.

"Affordable to me is market, middle, low income because I need my middle income and my market individuals in the city as well. If we take away the moderate income, we're going to be forcing the market rates into those apartments that are in the low income," the mayor said. "Affordable to me is every income level because that's what the city's comprised of."

Creating Incentives

Adams asserted that incentive to develop is key to increasing housing options, noting that he believes tax breaks such as 421-a should have never expired. The 421-a policy, a state policy that expired in June 2022, provided developers with tax breaks for designating at least 25 percent of units in new buildings to be income-limited — "affordable housing." Adams also referred to New York City's J-51 property tax exemption and abatement for apartment building renovations and repairs

"Many people said 421-a was a giveaway to developers. It was not, it was an incentive to build," the mayor said. "But when you look at what's in the pipeline, there's a complete drying up of the pipeline. And we can't be so idealistic that we're not realistic. Incentivizing and being smart about where you want to do the incentives is what allows us to get housing in the pipeline."

"It's crucial that we look in a smart way at incentive to continue repairs and build in this city," he added.

In addition to building, the mayor sees immense opportunity in converting vacant office space to housing.

"We have about 10 million square feet of real estate right now that's not being used. And even folks who do have office spaces, they're downsizing. They're continuing to have the large floorplan, and this is a great opportunity," he said. "If we give the incentive to allow it to be converted into affordable housing, there's some great opportunities to do so."

Studio Apartments with Shared Living Spaces

Adams envisions studio apartments with shared living and working spaces as an option, drawing from inspiration he's found in other parts of the world.

"It's a combination: If we do the right changes in Albany and we could have a conversation and move away from the market rates that we saw downtown. I believe in this concept, something I saw I saw in other countries. Instead of 'we work,' 'we live.' ... I think we have to reinvent our conversation, a modern day SRO, [single room occupancy], concept. There's some great models I saw across the globe. It's affordable. We could tie in real affordable prices to it," the mayor said.

Adams also noted that the city should be rethinking the process of rebuilding for the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA).

"Some of these buildings are dilapidated to the state of repairing them is unacceptable," he said, noting that renovating NYCHA buildings, in some cases, would be more expensive than building new ones.

"We need to think differently about NYCHA, and we need to engage the tenants in doing so."

The mayor referenced a project in the works in Chelsea, in which the tenant leaders at the Fulton Houses and Chelsea-Elliott Houses have a seat at the table, providing input in what happens next for the properties. The leaders favor an idea previously floated under the de Blasio administration to construct new buildings and tear down the old ones.

"I'm excited about the project in Chelsea. It's a new way of thinking," Adams said. The tenants would be moved to the new buildings with "zero displacement," according to the mayor.

With regards to building new affordable housing, the mayor said that the 'not in my backyard' attitude is "unacceptable." He called on local officials to direct the city in identifying the areas of opportunity.

"Every City Council person, every state senator, every assembly person should be saying to my office, 'Here's what you can build in our community,'" Adams said.

(c)2023 Staten Island Advance, N.Y. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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