State action needed as affordable housing construction slows in NYC: Mayor

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New York Construction Report staff writer

Responding to a slowdown in construction activity, New York City is asking for critical tools from the State — including a new affordable housing tax incentive, a pathway to make basement and cellar apartments safe and legal, a tax incentive to turn empty office buildings into affordable homes, and the lifting of a cap on density for new construction.

“Making good on our administration’s promise to increase affordable housing and tackle the city’s housing crisis once and for all, we accomplished record housing production for the last calendar year,” said Deputy Mayor for Housing, Economic Development and Workforce Maria Torres-Springer. “I congratulate HPD and HDC on financing historic numbers of newly created housing, including record amounts for homeless New Yorkers and those in need of supportive services, and look forward to working with our state colleagues to unlock more housing to reach our need of creating 500,000 new homes in the next decade.”

New data released this week shows that in 2023, the HPD and HDC closed on financing for the creation of an all-time record-breaking 14,227 new affordable homes — 51 percent of which benefited from the now-expired 421-A affordable housing tax incentive program.

HPD also directly connected more New Yorkers to homes than ever before, bringing nearly 13,000 households into affordable units this calendar year. Nearly 10,000 of those connections were through Housing Connect lotteries and 3,000 households left shelter to move into HPD homeless set aside units, an increase of more than 30 percent from 2022 to 2023.

Overall, HPD and HDC financed 27,911 units in 2023 through new construction and preservation deals, and increase of 80 percent from 2022, fueled by a 47 percent increase in the financing of new affordable homes.

To accelerate housing production the city launched an office conversation accelerator, new proposed rules to streamline approvals for sustainable housing, a “Housing-at-Risk Task Force,” and pilot programs to help fund the creation of accessory dwelling units, help move New Yorkers out of shelters and into renovated apartments, and fuel mixed-income development in neighborhoods across the city, among other innovative efforts.

“The New York City Department of Buildings is making it easier than ever to build in our city by removing outdated regulations and streamlining the development process, but without legislation from our partners in Albany, private developers will not build the houses we need in the numbers we need them,” said New York City Department of Buildings Commissioner Jimmy Oddo. “The simple fact of the matter is greater flexibility and incentives will help jumpstart housing production across the state.”

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, new construction of multifamily housing from January to October 2023 decreased 34 percent compared to the same period in 2022.

“Housing affordability is at a crisis level in New York City. More than half of renters are rent-burdened. New housing construction is not keeping pace with population growth, said New York State Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar. “Almost 150,000 New Yorkers are in our shelter system. Doing nothing is not an option.

“This housing plan must include common sense tax incentives which have previously helped finance more than half of new construction, conversions of vacant commercial office space in Manhattan into affordable housing, the legalization of basement apartments in places like my Queens district, and an increase in the FAR cap, which has not been updated since the 1960s.”

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