CB4 Housing Plan Has Six Essential Elements

Image courtesy of CB4 Possible development sites, from CB4’s Affordable Housing Plan.
Image courtesy of CB4
Possible development sites, from CB4’s Affordable Housing Plan.

BY SCOTT STIFFLER  |  When the details are worked out and the dust settles, nearly 11,000 units of affordable housing — mostly from new construction — will become available to residents of the Community Board 4 (CB4) area over the next decade.

That’s according to a preliminary plan approved at their July 23 full board meeting. With some notable additions based on a discussion that took place just prior to the vote, the Manhattan Community District 4 Affordable Housing Plan is expected to be submitted to the city on August 8 — making CB4 the first to answer Mayor Bill de Blasio’s call for all 59 NYC community boards to identify potential sites and suggest ways to increase the number of affordable units in their areas.

The plan debuted back in April, as a draft document. Since then, it’s been seen by NY State Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, City Councilmember Corey Johnson, the City Planning Commission and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. It also came to the attention of the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), by way of a June Chelsea Now article [“CB4 Debuts Ambitious Affordable Housing Plan”].

“It [the article] was picked up by HPD, through the Commissioner’s office, who specifically asked for the next copy of the plan,” said Joe Restuccia at the July 7 meeting of CB4’s Chelsea Land Use Committee. “HPD was very impressed by the section on 421-a tax exemptions,” he added, “and was very interested in how we have cited certain things.”

The desire to secure momentum for their own plan — and the chance to influence affordable housing policy throughout the city — has driven CB4 to be first out of the gate. Just prior to the full board’s July 23 discussion and vote, Housing, Health & Human Services Committee co-chair Restuccia gave a slide presentation overview of the 81-page plan, during which six major themes emerged.

Inclusionary housing would change from 80/20 to 70/30 — a figure that represents the percentage of market rate units compared to affordable ones within an individual development project. CB4 also proposes that inclusionary housing be a requirement, rather than an incentive, during a developer’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) application process.

A broadening of income bands would also be established. Currently, there are only four areas throughout the city where the zoning resolutions allow for inclusionary housing to encompass low, moderate, and middle-income brackets. CB4 wants that to become standard practice in all five boroughs.

The plan’s fourth element seeks to build housing on publicly owned sites — not just those owned by the city, but also property that falls under the control of the state, the MTA and the Port Authority.

Equal distribution of amenities would also be required, ensuring that units occupied by “affordable” residents have the same apartment finishes, flooring, cabinets, appliances and access to services enjoyed by their market rate counterparts.

The final, and most ambitious, part of CB4’s plan calls for at least 50 percent of new affordable housing to be two- and three-bedroom apartments. “We must have more family-sized units,” said Restuccia in a July 30 phone interview with Chelsea Now. “The mayor’s [affordable housing] plan speaks to the city’s demographic. The city needs more small [studio and one-bedroom] apartments. But the groups that are getting frozen out by the market are those who need two bedrooms or more.”

The next step in the evolution of Manhattan Community District 4’s Affordable Housing Plan happens on Thurs., Sept. 18, at 6:30 p.m. — when the Housing, Health & Human Services Committee meets in the Community Room, at 353 W. 30th St. The public is invited to attend, and welcome to ask questions. The plan submitted to the city on August 8 will then be available on the CB4 website (nyc.gov/mcb4).