BALCONY - Business and Labor Coalition of New York

We Won a Stop Work Order on UES’ Tallest Skyscraper After Zoning Violation

May 26th, 2016

By Ben Kallos, NYC Council Member

Today, the New York Times reported that the Department of Buildings has issued a stop work order for 180 East 88th Street, planned to be the tallest building north of 70th Street at 521 feet, following Monday coverage in the New York Times of a letter I sent last week with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, arguing the building violated the law.

Developer Ordered to Stop Work on Upper East Side Luxury Apartment Tower
By J. David Goodman, May 25 2016

Councilman Ben Kallos and the Manhattan borough president, Gale A. Brewer, who are Democrats and who sent a letter to the city last week flagging the zoning irregularities at the building site and requesting a stop-work order, praised the city’s decision. “I am glad we won before it was too late,” Mr. Kallos said.

The building, which would tower over the surrounding residential neighborhood, listed its entrance on a tiny, 4-foot lot, allowing it to skirt laws and increase its height. Now, it will have to come back to the Department of Buildings with new plans.

Thank you to Community Board 8 Manhattan for focusing on the issue, FRIENDS of the Upper East Side Historic Districts for their advocacy, and last but certainly not least, Carnegie Hill Neighbors for the partnership and investment in planners George M. Janes & Associates who helped identify the underlying legal issues. Even when a Borough President, Council Member, Community Board, neighborhood association, and local residents pool resources, the odds may be against us, but together we can win.

You can learn more from our summary in the press release or in my letter with Gale Brewer to Department of Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler from last week:

Thank you to everyone who wrote to my office and Commissioner Chandler in opposition to 180 East 88th Street.

I am glad we stopped this loophole before it was too late.

Please share this victory by forwarding it on to your friends and join our fight at http://benkallos.com/petition/stopsuperscrapers

Regards,

Ben Kallos
Council Member
City Council District 5
244 East 93rd Street
New York, NY 10128
BKallos@BenKallos.com
Phone: 212-860-1950
Web: BenKallos.com
Twitter: @BenKallos
Facebook: /BenKallos

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Posted under Housing, News from BALCONY

500 Affordable Units to Rise on Housing Authority Land in Bronx and Brooklyn

May 5th, 2016

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By MIREYA NAVARRO

Moving toward its goal of building 80,000 new affordable housing units over 10 years, the de Blasio administration plans to announce on Thursday that it will lease public housing land to build nearly 500 apartments for low-income tenants, most of them elderly. The apartments will be in three buildings that will rise up to 16 floors in the parking lots and grassland of housing projects in Brooklyn and the Bronx.

New York City has selected three private developers for the buildings at the Mill Brook Houses in the South Bronx and at the Ingersoll Houses and the Van Dyke Houses in Brooklyn. The additions to the grounds of the three housing projects will feature amenities and services like rooftop gardens, arts and technology programs, community centers, preschool education, social services and a walk-in urgent care center, housing officials said.

The agreements between the New York City Housing Authority and the developers are expected to be finalized by the end of the year, with construction expected to start next year and last about two years, officials said.

The sites were included in a strategic plan announced last year by the housing authority that seeks to shore up the deteriorating public housing stock as well as increase the stock of affordable units. The 489 units in the new buildings will charge below-market rents to households earning 20 to 60 percent of area median income — or $12,700 to $38,100 a year for one person — and public housing residents citywide will get preference for 25 percent of the apartments, officials said.

The new services and amenities will be open to both housing authority residents and the residents in the surrounding neighborhoods, officials said.

“We expect that our developer partners are going to integrate these new buildings with the existing community to ensure that residents feel there’s a benefit,” said Shola Olatoye, the chairwoman and chief executive of the housing authority.

Although the city has tapped available public housing land before to build affordable housing, the new construction comes as the city is struggling to keep up with the demand for low-cost housing and the housing authority is facing large deficits. The new all-affordable buildings are the first three of 50 to 60 similar buildings city officials envision on housing authority land; they are expected to generate about 10,000 below-market-rate units, officials said.

The all-affordable buildings are expected to generate up to $200 million in fees from developers over 10 years. But to raise up to three times as much, administration officials also have plans to use land parcels within public housing in prime real estate locations for buildings in which half the units would rent at market rates.

Already, plans for the first two of 30 to 40 of these hybrid buildings envisioned by the housing authority have been announced for housing projects in Brooklyn and Manhattan. But residents weary of gentrification are adamantly opposed to these additions. The concept proved equally controversial when first proposed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

Residents have been more welcoming of the all-affordable buildings, partly because there is more consensus on the need for housing for the elderly, and housing authority officials have met regularly with tenants to hear their concerns. The developers chosen for the three lower-rent buildings are BFC Partners, a company that builds both affordable and market-rate housing; Dunn Development, an affordable housing developer that has already built on housing authority property in the Bronx; and West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing, a nonprofit provider of senior housing and services in Mott Haven in the Bronx.

The housing authority is leasing the land for the three buildings under 60-year leases that guarantee affordability for at least that long, officials said.

The proposal for “Ingersoll Senior” at the Ingersoll Houses in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, by BFC Partners, consists of a 16-story building with 145 apartments on the site of an unused grass area for people 62 years or older earning up to 60 percent of area median income. It will include a senior center with a large variety of social, health and cultural services.

At the Van Dyke Houses in Brownsville, Brooklyn, Dunn Development plans to build Dumont Commons, a 13-story building on the site of a parking lot with 188 homes for single adults and families earning 30 to 60 percent of area median income. The building will offer a walk-in urgent care and wellness center and many early childhood, prekindergarten and after-school programs, among others.

“It will bring tons of jobs to the community, at least 50 employees for the two health care programs and 33 employees for early childhood and pre-K,” said Martin Dunn, president of the company. “And we are committed to hiring a significant number of Nycha residents for construction jobs,” he said, using the acronym for the housing authority.

Mill Brook Terrace in the South Bronx, by the West Side Federation, will have 156 units within nine floors for low-income older adults. The building, on the site of a current parking lot, will include a senior center, a community room for the use of the neighborhood and a rooftop garden.

The units will be available to applicants earning 20 to 60 percent of area median income.

Asked about the plans on Wednesday, however, some housing authority residents in Brooklyn said they had no knowledge of what was coming.

At Ingersoll, Samantha Newton, 49, said she had heard about the proposed building but she felt that, combined with all the other glassy residential buildings going up in the neighborhood, it would make the area “Little Manhattan.” She said she would rather see money spent on improving the existing buildings.

But another tenant, Gertrude Moore, 71, said: “If they build apartments for seniors, I’ll be glad to go in. I wouldn’t have to worry about kids playing in the hallway, throwing balls against my door, eating in the hallway.”

Still, she worried she may not have enough income to qualify. “Their low is not my low,” she said.

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Gonzalez: NYC’s housing reports so flawed they’re nearly useless

May 3rd, 2016

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Mayor de Blasio is using fuzzy math to tabulate one of his signature projects, the building of new affordable housing units, Controller Scott Stringer said Thursday.

In a letter to de Blasio’s Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, Stringer said his office found so many errors and omissions in a periodic report required by the City Council since 2012 to track both new affordable units and the subsidies handed to real estate developers that the data are almost useless.

According to Stringer, housing officials have only been listing rent levels for 20% of some 1,000 buildings that are currently in the database and for which a portion of housing units must be affordable.

In some cases, entire buildings that received major city subsidies are not even listed in the database that the Council’s legislation, known as Local Law 44, created.

Take, for example, the huge Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn developed by Greenland Forest City Partners, Bruce Ratner’s joint venture with a huge Chinese company.

One of the developers’ buildings, 535 Carlton Ave., received $85 million in loans from the city’s Housing Development Corp. and is supposed to offer all units as affordable. Another, at 38 Sixth Ave., benefitted from $93 million in HDC loans and is likewise supposed to be 100% affordable.

But neither building is listed in the latest Local Law 44 report.

“Whether these omissions occur due to the law failing to explicitly require information or through the city’s interpretation of the law, the result is the same,” Stringer said in the letter obtained by the Daily News.

“The public is deprived of basic information necessary to analyze and understand the city’s affordable housing construction efforts,” Stringer said.

De Blasio’s aides immediately dismissed the criticism as an attempt to smear the housing program.

CUOMO VOWS TO REJECT ANY AFFORDABLE TAX CREDIT PROGRAM WITH NO FAIL LABOR PROVISIONS

“There’s not much he (Stringer) gets right in his letter,” said Vicki Been, commissioner for housing preservation and development.

“We are following the law,” Been said. “If the controller has a problem with the law, he should take it up with the Council.”

According to Been, her agency is not reporting on projects that receive financial assistance solely from HDC because it is an “independent agency.”

Independent?

That ignores the simple fact that the majority of HDC’s governing board is made up of City Hall executives, including Been.

In 2014, HDC provided developers nearly $2 billion in affordable housing assistance. By what reading of Local Law 44 should that money not be tracked?

The law specifically defines financial assistance as “any loans, grants, tax credits, tax exemptions . . . or other thing of value allocated, conveyed or expended by the city.”

CITY COUNCIL ADVANCES PLAN TO BUILD THOUSANDS OF AFFORDABLE APARTMENTS IN EAST NEW YORK

The only tax break the City Council specifically excluded from the law’s reporting requirement is the now-expired luxury housing exemption known as 421a.

Given de Blasio’s promise to build and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing, and all the money being spent to achieve that, there’s certainly a need for one reporting system to track what actually happens.

“Right now, we don’t know how many units are being built, what the rent levels are, how long they are affordable and whether the programs we are funding are actually helping the New Yorkers who need it the most,” Stringer said.

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REBNY pushes 421-a’s significance for below-market-rate housing

April 29th, 2016

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By Sally Goldenberg

Apr. 28, 2016

More than half of the below-market-rate residential projects financed by the de Blasio administration’s housing agency in the past two years used the now-expired 421-a tax break, according to a new analysis from the Real Estate Board of New York.

REBNY, the industry’s lobbying organization, examined public data from the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. It found that of the 156 residential projects with low- to moderate-income apartments the city financed, 50.6 percent received the 421-a exemption, and nearly 10 percent were union projects.

The highest concentration of developments that used 421-a was in Manhattan with nearly 79 percent of the total projects, compared to 55 percent in Brooklyn, 50 percent on Staten Island, 44 percent in Queens and 17 percent in the Bronx.

The report concludes that 421-a, which provided a property tax exemption for residential development, “plays a critical role” in creating low- to middle-income housing, especially where land prices are high.

REBNY was tasked by Gov. Andrew Cuomo with negotiating the future of the tax break with the building trades union after the program sunset last year. The two groups could not reach an agreement on whether to attach a prevailing wage requirement to the tax program, which accounted for $1.1 billion in foregone revenue last year.

Many of the city’s top developers have threatened to stop building rental housing if the tax break is not reinstated.

“New York is a city of renters and a city that continues to grow. It is clear that without 421-a, much less affordable housing will be developed, particularly in those areas of the city where it is most difficult to build,” REBNY president John Banks said in a prepared statement.

In an interview, Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, which negotiated with REBNY, dismissed the group’s findings as cherry-picked and irrelevant.

LaBarbera said unions build the vast majority of larger residential projects that are not funded by the city, and REBNY only took into account the ones the city finances.

“They’re talking about … small-scale projects and I think they’re doing this as a distraction to the whole upcoming 421-a debate, which is really apples and oranges,” LaBarbera said.

He said the city’s construction unions worked on 79 percent of housing developments that are more than 300 units or larger than 300,000 square feet.

“We’re not in that market that they analyzed. We never said that that’s what we’re talking about,” he said. “To me, it’s a distraction and it’s not really relevant in the 421-a conversation.”

Cuomo recently said he would not support a 421-a bill that is not approved by the trades.

Read the REBNY report here: http://bit.ly/1rDlbKM

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At chaotic council meeting, de Blasio wins affordable-housing requirement

March 24th, 2016

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Boisterous opposition from the gallery could not stop the mayor’s zoning overhaul from sailing through

By Rosa Goldensohn

Mayor Bill de Blasio notched a major win Tuesday, changing the way housing is built in the city through a zoning revision that mandates affordable apartments for the middle class and people aspiring to get there.

His two zoning text amendments sailed through the City Council. A bill mandating affordable housing in newly rezoned areas passed 42-5, and a bill changing height and parking requirements passed 40-6. As protesters railed against the plan from the balcony of the council chamber, members lauded it as the most far-reaching affordable-housing policy in the country.

The mandatory inclusionary housing policy defines de Blasio’s political agenda. It was proposed as a counterweight to the trend of rising residential rents and the displacement of longtime residents from their neighborhoods.

When unveiled last year, the plan got a rocky reception. The amendments were roundly rejected by community boards across the city last fall. The mayor also upset construction unions by refusing to mandate union-level wages on affected projects, and angered community groups that said the planned housing will speed gentrification and be too expensive for the poor.

But despite long lines of critics at City Planning Commission hearings and rallies from some left-wing groups, the proposal gained momentum over the winter. Powerful city unions backed the plan, and business groups including the Partnership for New York City and the Real Estate Board of New York testified in its favor.

The plan insists that developers set aside apartments for lower-income residents in exchange for being allowed to build more market-rate units. The administration also committed billions of dollars in subsidies over the decade-long plan to foster affordability in neighborhoods where the zoning bonus is not valuable enough to support reduced-rent apartments.

The main coalition opposed to the proposal, Real Affordability for All, came on board after the mayor pledged to study its demands for lower-income options. But by that point, it had become clear that the council would approve the plan. Still, other protesters interrupted the Tuesday vote on mandatory inclusionary housing, chanting “City Council vote no, MIH has got to go.” After a struggle with security guards, one protester required medical attention.

A typical development under the proposal would include housing for individuals making $36,300 or $48,400, on average–equivalent to 60% or 80% of the area median income for New York City, respectively. The City Council added to the plan a formula for developers to build units for poorer tenants, but that will be entirely optional.

EXCLUSIVE: Assembly Democrats pushing for $500 million to repair dilapidated NYCHA buildings

March 11th, 2016

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BY KENNETH LOVETT DAILY NEWS ALBANY BUREAU CHIEF

ALBANY — State Assembly Democrats want to spend $500 million over five years for much-needed capital repairs at dilapidated New York City Housing Authority buildings, the Daily News has learned.

“More than 400,000 people reside in NYCHA housing,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said. “The disrepair of this aging infrastructure is well documented. This funding is critical for the New Yorkers who live in these buildings.”

The state set aside $100 million for NYCHA last year, the first state investment in years. But the money was controlled by the state, not the city and NYCHA.

SURVEY SHOWS NYCHA TENANTS WAIT YEARS FOR REPAIRS

Mayor de Blasio last year had set aside $100 million a year in city spending for NYCHA upgrades to leaky roofs and other big infrastructure projects and had hoped the state would match it, which it did not.

The $500 million the Assembly proposes for NYCHA is part of a $2.5 billion, five-year affordable housing plan to be unveiled Friday. The NYCHA spending would be on top of the $100 million the state agreed to spend last year.

NYCHA, in consultation with the state, would control how the money is spent, an Assembly official said.

The plan also rejects Cuomo’s push, opposed by Mayor de Blasio, to require an obscure state board to sign off on all city affordable housing projects funded with tax-exempt bonds.

The Assembly would set aside $50 million for homeless shelter upgrades, including enhanced security.

There’d be $250 million over five years for repairs and improvements at Mitchell-Lama properties, $500 million over five years to build 6,000 supportive housing units statewide, and $44 million for rental subsidies for domestic violence victims.

Heastie (D-Bronx) said the overall plan will “help families remain in their homes and expand affordable housing programs.”

“The housing crisis is affecting so many New Yorkers,” he said. “Near-record numbers are homeless, and still others are living in housing in desperate need of repair.”

Heastie spokesman Michael Whyland said the $2.5 billion, five-year program would be funded with existing money in the state budget.

The overall plan “details the Assembly’s priorities for housing capital” and will be subject to negotiation in the state budget talks with Cuomo and the Senate, Whyland said.

In addition to the housing plan, the Assembly’s budget proposal to be unveiled Friday rejects Cuomo‘s attempt to shift $485 million in CUNY costs on to the city and seeks to boost education aid to localities by $2.1 billion, more than twice what the governor has proposed.

It will also include a call to raise taxes on millionaires while expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit for the working poor and extending middle class tax cuts due to expire in 2017.

Cuomo and the Senate Republicans rejected the idea of raising taxes this year. Cuomo has proposed small business tax cuts while the Senate earlier this week unveiled its own proposal to cut income taxes for the middle class by 25% by 2025.

The Daily News reported on Wednesday the Assembly Democratic budget proposal will also include an anti-poverty initiative they say would make it easier for welfare recipients to become self-sufficient.

Cuomo in January proposed a $20 billion homeless and housing plan, half of which would be to create and preserve 100,000 units of affordable housing statewide.

The other $10 billion, $2.6 billion of which is for new commitments, would be earmarked over the next five years to combat homelessness, including the same 6,000 units of new supportive housing the Assembly Dems are now seeking.

Budget talks among state leaders have been heating up in hopes of having a new spending plan in place by the April 1 start of the new fiscal year.

Unions mount effort to push de Blasio housing plan over the finish line

March 3rd, 2016

Politically powerful labor groups urge City Council members to approve the mayor’s proposals, saying their members would benefit

By Rosa Goldensohn

Leaders from six of the city’s most muscular unions will send letters to City Council members Thursday urging them to support the mayor’s zoning amendments, and saying they will create housing their members can afford.

While council members generally support the plan, some have argued that the income levels for which it would produce housing are too high. The chamber is likely to demand apartments be set aside for even lower-income households than it does now.

But the unions say the majority of the affordable units built under the plan would be within reach of their members, including school maintenance workers, building service workers and nursing assistants. And the apartments designated for those in higher income brackets would serve members including nurses, telephone company technicians, and physician assistants, they wrote.

“Like many other New Yorkers, members of 1199 SEIU, SEIU 32BJ, CWA District 1, DC 37, HTC, and RWDSU are increasingly forced to live far outside of the city we work in or pay rents we can’t afford,” the letter says, referring to unions representing workers in health care, building services, communications, clerical positions and retail, respectively. “Our members will be among the hundreds of thousands of working New Yorkers who will directly benefit from this desperately needed housing plan.”

It is signed by George Gresham, president of the healthcare union 1199; Hector Figueroa from SEIU 32BJ; Peter Ward from the Hotel Trades Council; Henry Garrido from DC 37; Stuart Appelbaum from the retail workers’ union; and Dennis Trainor, who represents the Communications Workers of America.

Those unions are also behind a nonprofit organization, United for Affordable NYC, that was created to rally public support for the mayor’s housing plan.

The proposals will get a vote in March, a City Council spokeswoman said. The administration would require affordable units to be included in any project that benefits from a rezoning. Some critics have said the dwellings would be too expensive and would trigger gentrification and displacement. Mayoral aides have said if too much affordability is required, projects would not be economical and thus would not be built.

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Posted under Housing, News from BALCONY

EXCLUSIVE: Retail union backs Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing plan

February 23rd, 2016

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Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said his organization will lobby the City Council.

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union

BY ERIN DURKIN

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union is backing Mayor de Blasio’s plan to build or preserve 200,000 affordable apartments.

Union president Stuart Appelbaum told the Daily News he’s getting on board because in addition to the need for lower-rent homes, de Blasio has begun to highlight his desire to bring stores that meet high labor standards into the new developments.

“People need both affordable housing and decent jobs, and when he talks about high road retail and housing, what he’s doing is dealing with both needs simultaneously and that encourages us,” he said. “If the retailers who come into these projects create jobs that leave people in poverty, the city has not accomplished much.”

CLERGY LEADERS SIGN LETTER OPPOSING MAYOR DE BLASIO’S AFFORDABLE HOUSING PLAN

De Blasio brought up the issue in remarks to the congregation at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church Sunday morning.

“We need businesses that are going to pay a good wage. We need high road retailers, not Walmarts that are going to give people a pittance,” he said. “High-road retailers that believe they need to pay people a decent amount — that’s what we need more of in our neighborhoods, and we will fight for that.”

Appelbaum said RWDSU will lobby the City Council, which is considering two controversial zoning plans that are crucial to the housing initiative.

NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL PUSHES FOR MORE AFFORDABLE APARTMENTS IN MAYOR DE BLASIO’S HOUSING PLAN

One plan would require any development that needs city approval to include a percentage of affordable housing. The other would allow for taller buildings and loosen parking requirements for affordable developments.

“We represent a lot of low wage workers throughout New York City, and they need affordable housing now more than ever,” Appelbaum said.

Critics, including many on the Council, have said the housing built under the plan would be too expensive for many workers, since the zoning proposal does not require apartments for people making less than $46,000.

RWDSU joins several other influential unions that have backed the plans, including the 1199 SEIU health care workers union, United Federation of Teachers, and Hotel Trades Council.

MAYOR DE BLASIO’S AFFORDABLE HOUSING EXPANSION GETS BOOST FROM CITY PLANNING COMMISSION

After rejections from community boards around the city, de Blasio vowed to spend more time in neighborhoods explaining the plan, which he says has been misunderstood. He made two appearances at Bedford Stuyvesant churches Sunday.

Hizzoner stressed the preservation part of the plan, which would keep 120,000 existing apartments affordable. Another 80,000 new ones would be built.

“The bread and butter of what we’re doing — 120,000 apartments — is to keep people exactly in the apartments they are in right now,” he said.

He also acknowledged local worries like loss of parking but said housing must take priority. “I used to drive my car around the block looking for parking. No one has to tell me how much New Yorkers love their parking spaces,” he said. “Most of what you hear from seniors is they want affordable housing a lot more than they want a parking space.”

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Posted under Housing, News from BALCONY

New Report Examines Possible Impact of 421-a Legislation on Future Housing Construction in NYC

January 26th, 2016



A new NYU Furman Center report examines the possible impacts of New York City’s new 421-a program on housing development in different parts of the city. It finds that the future of the program could have a significant effect on the feasibility of housing construction in certain neighborhoods in New York City.

The report, The Latest Legislative Reform of the 421-a Tax Exemption: A Look at Possible Outcomes (PDF), considers the possibilities that the program will expire or continue based on an agreement between the real estate industry and construction trades. Using financial analysis, the report examines the program’s future across different market types, including neighborhoods where rents and sale prices are far lower than in the Manhattan core.

The report finds that expiration of the 421-a program could lead to a disruption in the supply of housing by market-rate builders. While there would likely be no change in construction in areas currently dominated by condominium development, like portions of Manhattan, there are parts of the city where the production of mid- and high-rise buildings might be disrupted while land prices adjust. In these neighborhoods, once development resumes, new development may tend toward condos rather than rentals.

The report also explores what might happen if the newly revised 421-a program goes into effect in 2016 without any increase in construction costs. This analysis shows that, compared to what the existing 421-a program might have created, there are likely to be more affordable rental housing units, but some of these units could be serving higher-income households.

In portions of the Manhattan Core, condominium development without the 421-a program may continue to dominate, though the program appears to make rentals more attractive for developers who focus on the longer tax exemption period and less on near-term operating income. Elsewhere due to the lengthened property tax exemption, rental development with the 421-a program would be more attractive than it is now by some measures, even in parts of the city where no affordable set-aside is currently required.

Finally, if construction costs increase, the report notes that the development of rental housing could become more expensive. If this were to happen, the government would have to increase the level of other subsidies to cover the increased costs, thus restraining the type and amount of affordable housing that can be produced with a given amount of government resources.

The Latest Legislative Reform of the 421-a Tax Exemption: A Look at Possible Outcomes (PDF) is now available for download.

Read more in the NYU Furman Center’s five-part series, Housing for an Inclusive New York: Affordable Housing Strategies for a High-Cost City.

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Prevailing wage for affordable-housing construction would be a bargain for the city

January 17th, 2016

By Elizabeth Crowley

A modest increase in cost would provide for safer worksites, quality jobs and career development

New York City is undeniably experiencing an affordable housing crisis. To combat this problem, each year the city provides hundreds of millions of dollars in grants and low-interest loans to developers building affordable housing.

The city has committed to working with developers to spend nearly $25 billion on Housing New York, a plan that will create affordable housing in all five boroughs. Funded mainly through the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the plan will build or restore 200,000 affordable units in the city over 10 years.

If our scarce city resources are so heavily invested in developing affordable housing, then we must demand the highest operating standards. That means requiring project labor agreements and/or prevailing wages on all projects receiving financial assistance from the city.

Prevailing wages, which are set based on trade and location, call for skilled and trained workers, often members of the Building Trades Council. This leads to safer and better working conditions. The Independent Budget Office released a report this week stating that requiring a prevailing wage for the Housing New York plan would raise costs by 13%.

Is a 13% increase on a project that is already being significantly subsidized really an elevated cost we cannot bear?

Union workers begin as apprentices and go through four years or more of schooling and on-the-job training before graduating as full-fledged tradespersons. When starting an apprenticeship, union workers earn about $13 an hour plus benefits, and after years of training, can earn $45 or more hourly plus benefits. Tradespeople are more and more reflecting the great diversity of our city, working hard for the middle class.

In the past, too many HPD projects were built at the expense of our workers. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently found several developers of HPD housing guilty of owing workers almost $12 million. Prevailing wage protects our workers from wage theft and ensures they are receiving a fair, livable wage.

This is not a new idea. In 1931, Congress passed the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires workers on federally funded projects to be paid the prevailing wage. In New York, State Law 220 requires workers on public projects to be paid the local prevailing wage. And in 2012, the City Council passed a similar law providing prevailing wage protection for building maintenance staff.

In New York City, the greatest city in the world, we have a responsibility to ensure that wealth and growth is shared with our workforce, and that contractors are not padding their pockets while trades workers struggle. That is why I introduced legislation (Intro 0744-2015) that would require a prevailing wage for any person performing construction work on a project receiving greater than $1 million in financial assistance from the city.

This year, let’s use the IBO report as a guide and push for the additional 13% that would ensure our city is built more efficiently, by experienced workers who are paid fair wages. Through this, and by passing Intro 0744, we can ensure New York City is strong for generations to come.

Elizabeth Crowley represents Glendale, Ridgewood and other parts of southwest Queens in the City Council.

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