This Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio held a speech about his focus in this second year of his term. He revealed his plan of creating an even denser New York City, but with more affordable housing, transforming neighborhoods all over the city.
The mayor’s task is not an easy one: he needs to convince the population of New York that his plan of designing more high buildings might actually improve the lifestyle of all residents, with no regard to their income levels. In his address, Mr. de Blasio talked about the city’s building boom, right after the World War II destruction, when middle- and working-class of New York got shelter and housing from large companies, like Stuyvesant Town.
The plans include rezoning two more neighborhoods, reshaping them in order to make space for taller housing buildings. His vision includes transforming affordable apartments from option to requirement, offering extra security to those tenants who are afraid that the upcoming changes would force them out of their apartments.
De Blasio also spoke about his plan of adding 160,000 apartments over the next 10 years, in the hope that a vast option of housing will decrease the price of rent in general. But not everyone is on board, especially the groups who are worried about changing the cityscape, and the City Hall has already got fierce resistance in some of the neighborhoods.
In his speech, the mayor carefully explained that the local administration is doing its best in finding out the best middle ground. On his behalf, Alicia Glen, the city’s deputy mayor for housing and economic development, stated that the need of expanding the neighborhoods is real, but the mayor’s plan is to make sure that the communities will not have to suffer because of it. She was very adamant in protecting their rights to remain unharmed by the proposed remodeling.
Ms. Glen stressed the importance of understanding correctly the meaning of density. She is positive that once people understand that density is not, per se, a bad thing that people need to be afraid of, they will accept more gladly the mayor’s vision.
To support that effort, de Blasio’s office will pledge $36 million in legal assistance for tenants living in the rezoned neighborhoods. The plan is to prevent or avert possible harassment from the landlords, who might try to evict current tenants in favor or higher pays from new tenants, a strategy which often comes along with rezoning.
The initiative will be exerted by outside organizations, such as Legal Aid Society, which would triple the money usually spent by the City Hall on legal assistance for tenants. Among their services, these groups will work together for equipping tenants with legal knowledge, so they can fight any type of illegal strategies landlords might adopt.
The lower class has a lot of supporters, and among them is Jonathan Lippman, chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals, who has a long history of advocating for better legal services for the poor. He assess that the new funding will provide legal representation for almost 14,000 cases in housing court.
In their efforts of leveling the situation, the professional legal aid involved might encounter false claims or illegal tenants, but Steven Spinola, head of the Real Estate Board of New York, thinks that even so, the program might prove to be useful, as he is sure the attorneys will be able to resolve possible issues.
However, some vital details in the mayor’s housing vision are still uncertain. It is not news that the de Blasio’s office is advocating for mandatory affordable units in the buildings created in the rezoned areas, as opposed to the Bloomberg years, when these units were optional. The standard number of affordable units, however, has yet to be determined, as the office has not released their proposition yet. Some of the housing counsellors are in favor of the city raising the current standard, which says that 20 percent of the units in a building have to be affordable.
Another detail that needs clarifying is the criteria for the people who would qualify for an affordable unit. Usually, it’s the city planners who set the low bar for income levels, custom to each rezoned neighborhood, but those formulas could be readjusted. Representatives of the mayoral office stated that those formulas will not be disclosed until later this year.
Ms. Glen, the deputy mayor, explained that these details willbe determined for each neighborhood in particular. City Hall is set on change the housing market in a way that would be in the advantage of all residents.
By adding 160,000 market-rate units — in addition to the 200,000 affordable units pledged to be built in the next ten years — the mayor is trying to adjust the serious imbalance in the supply versus demand.
Image Source: Gizmodo
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