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NYC: Champion For Affordable Housing Developments

25 Apr 2018 4:53 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

by Steve Dwyer

Across its five boroughs, New York City has developed a strong fluency for converting former brownfields into affordable housing reuses. The message is this—keep it up, New York, stay the course, because the strategy is paying prime dividends.

It’s a point of fact that the scale of vacant properties across New York City’s five boroughs is massive, with many end use redevelopments flashing diversification all depending on the footprint, the specific need and other factors.

Affordable housing has become a very viable option in New York City and beyond, as other cities are following suit on their pursuit of this end-use strategy. Other cities in other states might have taken a page from Via Verde, a mixed-income housing development in the Bronx acclaimed for using energy 30% more efficiently than comparable buildings, saving residents money.

There are several myths dogging affordable housing that many groups advocating for this end use are always eager to dispel. For instance, Community Housing Partners Corp. (CHP) finds that affordable housing is “affordable in the sense of being less costly to live in because it is supported by financing from a variety of public and private sources—not because it is cheaply built or operated.”

Building affordable housing near jobs supports the increased use of public transportation, shortens commutes and lessens congestion. The National Personal Transportation Survey found that low-income households make 40% fewer trips than other households. Studies show that affordable housing residents own fewer cars and drive less often than those in the surrounding neighborhood.

One key is critical mass: The larger an urban footprint—such as NYC—the better the chance to leverage an idea such as affordable housing. Think about it: When critical mass is achieved—paving the way for a “brownfields by the bunches” approach to redevelopment—affordable housing quadrants located within a city schema helps avoid housing “disbursement” in favor of unification.

The consolidation of affordable housing components across a city grid fosters public transit, biking and pedestrian options. This assists owners or renters to avoid having to either a) acquire an automobile or b) allow them to rely less on that vehicle.

Another urban legend is that this type of project can lead to over-crowded schools, but studies show that traditional single-family home neighborhoods have two to three times the number of school-aged children than those residing in apartments, according to CHP.

Like other similar studies, one from Wayne State University tracked property values before and after affordable housing was built and found that affordable housing often has a positive effect on property values located in higher-valued neighborhoods while also improving values in lower-valued neighborhoods—a double benefit.

New York City got the memo about the power of this redevelopment concept a long time ago. For proof, take a look at several former Big Apple Brownfield Award winners: The Hour Apartment House III in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens now provides much-need affordable housing to formerly incarcerated mothers and their children.

In 2017, Big Apple Brownfield Award winners that made their mark by underscoring and helping champion the affordable housing conversation included Webster Residence and Park House, which features units with rents affordable to households with incomes below 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI). Over 50% of the Webster Residence units and 12% of the Park House units are reserved for formerly homeless persons with special needs.

West Tremont Residences was built upon a collaborative effort between the city and state—resulting in 61 apartments available to senior citizens at affordable housing prices. Elton Crossing (Melrose C – Family), saw the creation of a mixed-use commercial and residential building to house low and moderate income families in the Bronx, to great success.

Affordable housing is an idea that will continue to be championed across the country—and rightly so. Give New York City an assist as it’s clearly the poster child for how effective this redevelopment concept can be if executed with a unified team approach.

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