Smart development key to solving affordable housing problems

By Steven Spinola

Our city is growing, and by 2040 a million more people will live here from all over the world, one issue that must be addressed urgently is where the New Yorkers of tomorrow will live.

Recently, Mayor de Blasio presented a 10-year plan that attempts to deal with the housing needs for all New Yorkers. It identifies the problems and provides a realistic roadmap for solutions.

The mayor’s outline calls for 200,000 affordable units over 10 years—120,000 preserved and 80,000 newly built. The City will identify corridors and communities with opportunities for more housing (both affordable and market), and coordinate greater density with necessary infrastructure.

As this plan was assembled in the beginning of the new mayoralty, the Real Estate Board of New York had the chance to offer our input to the mayor and we look forward to working with the administration to implement these critical objectives. Columbia University’s Center for Urban Real Estate has been grappling with these same issues and make some concrete suggestions in a report that was released last fall called “NYC 2040: Housing the Next Million New Yorkers.”

When the entire multi-phase Hunter’s Point South development project is completed the City will have added approximately 5,000 new units of housing to the Queens waterfront, a minimum of 60 percent or 3,000 units of which will be reserved as affordable for low-, moderate- and middle-income families.

As its name suggests, CURE’s Vishaan Chakrabarti and Jesse Keenan project that by 2040, there will be approximately one million more New York City residents than there are right now. The report also found that as of right now under the current zoning in place, the city is able to support 700,000 more people, with 70 percent of that being infill housing.

However, the report’s central finding was that New York has not developed the zoning capacity or market mechanisms to house all of these people, and lacks the capacity to produce the same level of product diversity as there is corresponding population diversity.

The Mayor’s plan recognizes many of these same problems. If these issues remain unsolved, the result will be an exacerbation of the existing housing crisis, as well as a negative impact on New York’s ability to attract newcomers.

The solution to this issue, according to the CURE report, seems to lie within higher density urban zones with added infrastructure capacity that would be able to accommodate the basic needs of these additional residents. Through many simulations of these zones all over the city, the report found that the city’s existing planned “megaprojects,” such as Hudson Yards and Atlantic Yards, would actually only house a fraction of the projected demand. It goes on to analyze other potential areas for a higher level of urban development, focusing on areas of western Brooklyn, Queens, and the south Bronx.

Building in these areas located along the East River would create opportunities for more waterborne transit, adding to the East River’s already rich history. Newly created high density, mixed income zones along the East River corridor would blaze new trails in terms of urbanization and economic productivity.

The report also addressed the status of New York’s existing housing from a structural standpoint, taking into account Hurricane Sandy’s exposition of its vulnerability. Not only must we continue to develop housing, it says, but we must do so while keeping in mind things such as climate change, natural disasters, and more.

The key to solving all of these problems is in smart and sustainable urban development. I want to commend Mayor de Blasio and his Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen for tackling this complex problem head on and I applaud Chakrabarti and Keenan for doing their part in focusing on this critically important topic.

 

In other REBNY news:
On May 29, REBNY is holding its 11th Annual Commercial Management Leadership Breakfast at the Hilton NY in the Grand Ballroom. Coffee will be served from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., and the program will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. For more information contact Cindy Ramotar atcramotar@rebny.com.
June 6 is the Residential Brokerage Division’s Downtown Roundtable, a discussion seminar where participants will spend approximately 20 minutes at a table before moving on to the next subject’s table. Registration is required, and for more information contact Yesenia Perez atyperez@rebny.com.
June 9 is the annual REBNY Spring Golf & Tennis Outing at the North Shore Country Club in Glen Head, a fun-filled day during which attendees will be able to network with each other and have a good time. Golf is $425, tennis is $315 and includes singles and doubles brunch, all-day is $225, dinner-only is $150, and a swimming pool is available to all. Each package includes cocktails and dinner, and sponsorships are available. For more information, contact Kathleen Gibbs at 212-616-5246, or kgibbs@rebny.com.
June 10 is the Real Estate Weekly Young Leaders’ Forum at National Bohemian Hall. Join over 350 real estate players for an annual summit highlighting the emerging players in real estate and finance. The forum is from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and more information can be found atwww.rewyoungleadersforum.com.
June 10 is the Residential Brokerage Annual Owner/Manager Luncheon from 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m at the New York Athletic Club at 180 Central Park South. The event is for REBNY members only and $35 per person, and for more information contact Indi Jaipal at ijaipal@rebny.com.
On June 10, the winners of the Retail Deal of the Year 2013 Awards will be announced at a cocktail party hosted by the Retail Committee. For more information, contact Jeanne Oliver-Taylor at JTaylor@rebny.com.
June 18 is the Brooklyn Committee’s cocktail event at the Brooklyn Winery from 6 to 9 p.m. For more information, contact Jeanne Oliver-Taylor at JTaylor@rebny.com.