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Working Group 04

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

FACILITATOR – Alix Fellman

Download the meeting handout for Affordable Housing PDF (349 KB)

Ongoing Challenges

  • Increasing housing costs
  • Loss of rent-regulated and other affordable apartments
  • Displacement of low- and moderate-income households

List of Ideas

Preserve existing rent-regulated and other affordable units by:

  • Preventing harassment
  • Providing rental subsidies to tenants
  • Providing tax breaks to building owners

Support the capital needs of public housing developments

Explore ways to create new affordable housing (recognizing divergent viewpoints on acceptable building heights). Strategies could include:

  • Commission a comprehensive survey of vacant properties in the area
  • Allow residential development above existing manufacturing uses
  • Require that City-owned land be deeded to non-profit developers to create new affordable housing
  • Require that any new development include a certain percentage of apartments to be permanently affordable

Balance need for affordable housing for blue collar workers, artists, and seniors

Require that developers of new housing provides for needed infrastructure improvements

Explore ways to require contextual development. Strategies could include:

  • Models that create affordable housing in new buildings lower than six stories while providing for newly required flood mitigations
  • Regulations that keep building heights along the canal low

8 Comments

  1. Louis Kleinman
    January 24, 2014

    Develop a definition of what constitutes ‘affordable housing’ in dollars and indicate the difference between affordable housing and subsidized housing.

  2. Carrie-Ann Bracco
    January 25, 2014

    I think most artist studios and housing are separate in Gowanus currently. But you could consider creating affordable live/work spaces. Here is an example on Long Island: http://www.artspace.org/our-places/artspace-patchogue-lofts

  3. Warren Cohen
    January 27, 2014

    I attended this session and was disappointed to see that many of the idea expressed by a variety of people were not in included. To wit:

    * Some of us had serious questions about whether it was possible to have flood proof housing near the Gowanus.
    * Some of us were concerned about housing people so close to the toxic canal with uncertain environmental consequences.
    * Given that affordable housing will be for elderly and poor, it would put our vulnerable citizens smack in hurricane Zone A, which has had mandatory evacuation orders two out of the last three years. This population would be subject to seasonal displacement while taxpayers will be responsible for these evacuations in the future.
    * Many people felt further density and upzoning on 4th avenue could be a better integral neighborhood solution, still in Gowanus area but not on the water.
    * The only aspect of the flooding that got mentioned in thethis briefing summary was housing providing for “newly required flood mitigations” – but these flood mitigation efforts (notably the mayor’s executive order on waterfront development) were discussed in our group with some people criticizing it for exacerbating inland flooding in the Gowanus!

    I know there was disagreement about these issues in our group. But I know many people raised these points. I appreciated the write-up in the Strengthening Mix Of Uses group which stated conflicting views openly (ie. “recognizing divergent viewpoints on acceptable building heights.”) I wish this summary had been as accurate.

  4. debbie s
    January 27, 2014

    There was also the idea put forth that the banks of a toxic flood zone might not be such a great place to place residential units, especially for the elderly. The area around the Gowanus has faced mandatory evacuations twice in the past two years, and anyone living there would have had to evacuate as well. The issue of building to scale is mentioned above, but should really appear at the top of the list as it was one of the most often made comments during the session. I do not feel that the above notes accurately reflects what was discussed in this breakout session. Maybe we need to revise our note-taking strategy in the next meeting? Like get the entire group to agree on what is being put forth to the larger group? I think that’s crucial if this is to be a transparent process.

  5. Warren Cohen
    January 27, 2014

    I attended this meeting and many of the ideas expressed by a variety of people were not in included, even as a “recognizing that there is disagreement” point:

    * Some of us had serious questions about whether it was possible to have flood proof housing near the Gowanus.
    * Some of us were concerned about housing people so close to the toxic canal with uncertain environmental consequences.
    * Given that affordable housing will be for elderly and poor, it would put our vulnerable citizens smack in hurricane Zone A, which has had mandatory evacuation orders two out of the last three years. This population would be subject to seasonal displacement while taxpayers will be responsible for these evacuations in the future.
    * Many people felt further density and upzoning on 4th avenue could be a better integral neighborhood solution, still in Gowanus area but not on the water.
    * The only aspect of the flooding that got mentioned in the briefing summary was housing providing for “newly required flood mitigations” – but these flood mitigation efforts (notably the mayor’s executive order on waterfront development) were discussed in our group with some people criticizing it for exacerbating inland flooding in the Gowanus! It feels inaccurate to summarize it as a “strategy.”

  6. Kathryn Krase
    January 29, 2014

    I’m sorry that I was unable to make the meetings, but I want to highlight that Gowanus is not just a canal, but a neighborhood. Not all of Gowanus (the neighborhood) is in flood zone A. There are needs of the community besides those faced directly along the banks of the canal. I’m looking forward to hearing more in February. Thank you all for your work on these important issues.

  7. Warren Cohen
    January 31, 2014

    Yes, you are correct that its not all flood zone A. But all of Gowanus is in flood zone A and B (and FEMA just rewrote the maps so there are 6 flood zones in NYC now.)

  8. David Briggs
    March 17, 2014

    Part of our challenge is how we experience the canal. Almost without exception, every single planning study views the canal and its neighborhood from above. We must start looking at the topology in cross-sectional profile in order to fully understand the impact of taller buildings in the neighborhood. The Lightstone proposal cleverly renders a bird’s eye view of the proposed development which implies minimum visual impact.

    Several interesting zoning ideas were discussed at the second affordable housing working group meeting. “Inverted zoning” and “cap and trade” scenarios propose a more cohesive approach to securing affordable housing. Zoning bonuses should be created that kick in when historic properties and/or current uses are kept intact as part of any new development. We need a physical model of the area to understand the long-term impact of the proposed changes and a virtual model that looks at how we can encourage divergence in the neighborhood’s growth and not wind up with a high-income residential neighborhood loaded with trendy boutiques.

    We should integrate our work with the other working groups. Not sure if someone else is taking on this responsibility.

    If we stay focused on our mission and work closely with the other groups, we will succeed.