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New Opportunity for Astoria Cove

October 30, 2014

Yesterday the City Council approved the long-debated Astoria Cove project, the first major rezoning under the de Blasio administration. The final deal allows the development of a 1,700-unit luxury development, with a total of 27% of those units being affordable.

Yesterday the City Council approved the long-debated Astoria Cove project, the first major rezoning under the de Blasio administration. The final deal allows the development of a 1,700-unit luxury development, with a total of 27% of those units being affordable.

ANHD applauds the important steps forward in the Astoria Cove deal, which represent a move towards a better model of development in New York. It demonstrates the key role the Mayor’s commitment to a policy of Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning (MIZ) will play in helping to produce more affordable units in neighborhoods throughout the city. Most notably, because the affordable units at Astoria Cove are all required to be permanently affordable, they can be relied on to continue serving the community far into the future. In an era where affordable housing  that isn’t owned by nonprofit developers is increasingly cashing out and going market, especially in gentrifying neighborhoods, this is a significant policy precedent, as is the fact that the vast majority of these – all but 2% – will be done without additional direct city subsidy.

The deal also points the way to the next big housing policy issue because  Astoria Cove shows the limitations of even the best inclusionary zoning policy on its own, demonstrating the importance of reforming the other major tool that can be used to get affordable housing out of the market – the 421a developer’s tax break. As it currently stands, 421a gives away billions of dollars in public money for minimal public benefits in return. In many parts of the city, developers are eligible for the 421a tax break without having to build any affordable component at all. Furthermore, when 421a is used in conjunction with other programs, such as Inclusionary Zoning, developers get to double dip by counting the same units twice, rather than adding more affordable apartments for each new subsidy they take. The administration has now taken a huge step in ending the “double dip” of using Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning with direct city subsidy. Ending the “double dip” of using MIZ with the 421a developer tax break is the next logical step.

There is an opportunity now to transform 421a into a tool that can be supplemented by Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning to develop even more affordable units, at rent levels affordable to the New Yorkers who are feeling the housing squeeze most acutely. We look forward to working with the Administration to get the tools we need in order to take the next step toward building more affordable neighborhoods and a more equitable city.

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