C.B. 1 to inventory Downtown affordable housing

BY Aline Reynolds

Community Board 1 is on a mission to document the affordable housing units that still exist Downtown. The board’s affordable housing task force is coming out with a new guide this spring.

The idea behind the guide, according to C.B. 1’s Affordable Housing Task Force Chairman Tom Goodkind, is to “shine a light on how to get one of these choice apartments for less money if you’re not earning enough to afford market in the same area.”

The task force aims to replicate the successful runs of its previous community guides — one on rent stabilization that came out in 2009, and another for seniors last summer. Goodkind said the group would be updating the rent stabilization guide in the spring or early summer to include 37 Wall Street and other buildings that have become rent-regulated since the guide was published. Goodkind said the updated guide would also clarify the differences between the various stabilization laws.

The housing guide is poised to offer families of all income levels the means to identify affordable apartments. Goodkind said the goal is to promote financial diversity in a neighborhood that often champions market-rate housing.

“This community is growing so quickly – we need to know what nature of affordable housing is available,” said Michael Levine, the community board’s director of planning and land use. The guide, he said, could also serve as a crucial resource for growing families residing in Lower Manhattan that are in search of larger apartments.

Part one of the approximately 30-page guide will list and define the different types of affordable housing and part two will comprise an inventory of the low-income residences located in the board’s district. The inventory will include average apartment rates and residents’ expected earning status.

C.B. 1 chair Julie Menin noted that assembling all the vital data on the existing affordable housing units will prove to be an important resource for the Downtown community.

“There is an affordable housing crisis in this city,” said Menin, “and we in Lower Manhattan are working proactively to address the needs in our community by actively pushing for more affordable housing development in our district.”

The project’s coordinator, Heather Anderson, C.B. 1’s 2010-11 urban planning fellow from Columbia University, plans to research the contemporary context of low-to-middle income housing for the guide. The project ties in directly with her housing concentration at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Urban Planning and Preservation.

The manual, she said, should be “an effective tool of affordable housing to see what our options are of possibly creating more, but definitely preserving what’s there.”

Anderson’s research thus far, which involves surfing the net for annual housing reports and press releases, revealed that the most common forms of affordable housing units Downtown are either federally subsidized or privately developed. Some residences, she found out, gives preference to locals, seniors and people with disabilities.

Additional research and data-gathering tasks will be divided among the 13 members of the task force. “We’re going to find out every little nuance of this stuff and just go for it,” said Goodkind.

The guide will also provide tips on how to apply for affordable housing, along with a brief history of the residences, which, Goodkind said, might shed light on their past and current conditions. The task force also plans to track down residents currently residing in affordable housing units Downtown so as to incorporate into the guide some first-hand accounts of typical living scenarios.

“I really want to personalize this, and show what it’s been like over the years for the people living in these buildings,” said Goodkind.

The task force also hopes to create Manhattan Seniors, a nonprofit organization that would oversee affordable services for seniors seeking to age-in-place in Downtown.

The group will reconvene on Wednesday, February 16, where the task force members will be discussing additional ideas for the guide and snags they’ve encountered along the way.

The board hopes to complete a working draft by March and a final draft by April. The guide will be released before May, when Anderson finishes her fellowship work with C.B. 1.