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ANHD's Blueprint for Affordable Neighborhoods

January 24, 2013

A Housing Policy Platform for the Future of New York City:    The coming year will be a turning point for affordable housing in New York City. For the first time in twelve years - three mayoral election cycles - the next leader of our city will set a new direction for housing policy. We all know that much of our city's affordable housing is at risk. We also know that a strong housing policy is a crucial strategy for our city to move forward in the coming decade. New Yorkers at every economic level face an affordability crisis in so many aspects of our lives: basic living expenses, transportation, education, and especially housing. If New York wants to continue as a world-class city with a dynamic, innovative economy, it needs a broad, diverse workforce. In turn, that workforce needs affordable, stable housing so that our neighborhoods and our city can thrive. The ANHD Affordable Neighborhoods policy platform focuses on nine critical policy areas, summarized below, that our next political leader should support to help our city lead the way in the coming decades. You can click on this link for the full version of our Affordable Neighborhoods 2013 Platform. In the coming months, ANHD will be blogging more about our detailed, realistic proposals for affordable neighborhoods. 1. Invest in the Creation of Affordable Housing: Because of the nature New York's geography and real estate market, not a single unit of affordable housing will be built without some form of public subsidy. Our political leaders must make the commitment to invest, build and preserve. Furthermore, it is always far, far cheaper to preserve our precious existing supply of affordable housing than it is to build new. 2. Build Housing to Meet the Real Affordability Needs of Residents: Currently, much of the affordable housing built is unaffordable for the majority of families in the neighborhood. The next mayor must better target the rent and income levels, unit sizes and length of affordability to meet community need and maximize the city's value of the public investment. 3. Maximize Community Impact with Non-Profit Community-Based Development Approach: Each housing development is an opportunity for the city to create affordable housing, but it is also an opportunity to reinvest in neighborhoods. Non-profit community-based developers serve the community and seek to strengthen the civic infrastructure of the neighborhood through the development process. 4. Establish Mandatory Affordability through Inclusionary Zoning: The city continues to see enormous development and growth from changes in zoning regulations. This presents an extraordinary and untapped opportunity - affordable housing can be better fused into the city's growth. The next administration should adopt a mandatory affordability policy that would generate affordable housing units for future generations across the city through binding inclusionary zoning. 5. Preserve Every At-Risk Unit of the Existing Affordable Housing: At a time when affordable housing is increasingly difficult to find, thousands of units of affordable housing are at-risk due to expiring affordability, market pressure, over-leveraging, physical distress, and code and zoning regulations that do not make reasonable accommodations for informal apartments built in single-family homes. The next mayor must ensure we do not continue to let housing built with city, state, or federal subsidy slip away, or let inflexible zoning and code undermine informal neighborhood housing assets. 6. Ensure New Homeownership Opportunities for Qualified Buyers and Protect Existing Homeowners from Foreclosure: While it is true that New York is a renters' city, about one-third of residents own their homes. New York City must employ every strategy to keep homeowners in their homes, force lenders to maintain foreclosed properties, and encourage the productive reuse of foreclosed homes as new affordable homeownership opportunities. 7. Protect Tenants to Enable Long-Term Tenure and Healthy Physical Conditions: Our political leaders must use their legislative authority or their bully pulpit where they don't have direct authority to strengthen rent protections for our Rent Stabilized stock and improve code enforcement so conditions are decent and safe. 8. Hold Banks Accountable to Meet the Credit Needs of Our Neighborhoods: Lending and investment are the lifeblood of healthy neighborhoods, and we need banks as partners to provide appropriate, sustainable financing for apartment buildings and single-family homes, as well as community development. Too often in recent years, banks have done the opposite, irresponsibly deploying capital before the economic crisis, and then refusing to write-down unsustainable mortgages and make small-business and homeowner loans where they are desperately needed. Our political leaders need to use the leverage of government, including the City Banking Commission, to hold banks accountable to our communities. 9. Strengthen New York City Housing Authority: The apartments operated by the New York City Housing Authority are one of the great affordable housing resources of our city, with over 178,000 apartments located in 334 developments across the city, that provide housing for over 400,000 New Yorkers. Unfortunately, NYCHA housing is under-appreciated and underfunded. In spite of its challenges, NYCHA housing remains a vital community resource and in great demand with a tenant waiting list that is many years long. The next mayor should strengthen public housing so it can improve the key services it provides to the New Yorkers who need it most. Each plank of ANHD's platform represents a workable approach to confront the skyrocketing cost of housing, and will help to sustain New York as a diverse, vibrant city of neighborhoods - a New York that provides homes for its citizens, that fosters community, and that strives for justice.

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