Mayor Bill de Blasio's State of the City speech focused on affordable housing.
He summed it up as
Taller buildings (with community input about placement, etc.)
Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning - and rezoning
Focusing where need is greatest (on specific populations)
Targeting predatory landlords
Highlights with commentary:
1. Achievements & Plan:
- Lowest RGB increase ever in 2014.
- Funding and planning now in place for 17,300 new units (1,300 more than the plan called for in 2014).
- Plan to build total of 80,000 units (less the 17,300) of affordable housing (Levels of affordability are not specified)
- Plan to preserve 120,000 units of existing affordable housing. (Not clear how.)
- Plan to build 160,000 units of market-rate (read "luxury") housing for the expected population growth. (Since the affordable housing is only a percentage of the proposed development, the mayor may be trying to make a virtue of it.)
2. Taller buildings in newly-rezoned areas with input from community leaders, local politicians, neighbors.
- Reform the Department of Buildings by
- adding personnel and automation,
- speeding up inspections (good for tenants, perhaps not so good for those concerned about new development), and
- cutting bureaucracy (good for tenants, but perhaps not so good for those concerned about new development).
3. Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning to provide affordable housing - but no specific percentages. The NY Times reports that this will vary neighborhood to neighborhood, although that was not specified in the mayor's speech.
Examples of proposed newly-built housing:
- NOW: Astoria Cove in Queens: 465 new units of affordable housing
- Sunnyside Yards in Queens: 11,250 planned (same size as Stuy Town), with some of it affordable "for the long term" to avoid problems as happening at Stuyvesant Town now.
- Rockaways on vacant, blighted land. (No mention of hurricane-proofing!) City-wide ferry service to all 5 boroughs at cost of Metrocard fare.
- The neighborhoods of East New York; Long Island City, Flushing West, East Harlem, Stapleton on Staten Island, South Bronx waterfront (The City will use $200 million to stimulate 4,000 new units - some of which will be affordable). Increased Bus Rapid Transit in outer boroughs including along Utica Ave. in Brooklyn and Woodhaven Blvd. in Queens.
- Veterans: End veteran homelessness in a year, with federal help
- Seniors: 10,000 units of affordable housing just for seniors
- Cultural community: 1,500 units of affordable housing + 500 dedicated work spaces.
WHERE: In the areas that the City rezones for mandatory inclusionary zoning,
WHEN: IF the City finds tenants are being harassed,
WHAT: The City will provide free legal services to those tenants in housing court.
Presumably all over the city, there will also be more enforcement. This was alluded to "[We're] committed to stop harassers and lawbreakers, and protect our city in every way" but how is not clear.
6. Calling on Albany
- To pass stronger rent laws (NOT specific, doesn't mention repealing vacancy deregulation, capping MCIs, protection for those with preferential rents, or any other specific protection).
- To fund for free legal services to "victims of landlord neglect or harassment."
"It’s the only way for so many New Yorkers the only way they make ends meet, the only path to the middle class. . . If Albany believes in opportunity for all, then we will see rent laws strengthened in 2015."
The perspective of this website: Rent regulation is a way to level the playing field between tenants and landlords and not just for the poorest tenants seeking to get into the middle class. Many middle class New Yorkers (teachers, social workers, librarians, nurses, artists, small business owners) rely on rent regulation to stay in NYC.
Some paraphrasing, some quoting, of his conclusion:
More and more people want to live here, but we won’t lose sight of who we are and why our city has been a beacon. We are not the cleanest place or the most tranquil and we don’t have the best weather or many alluring natural landmarks. We have something special: an idea at the core of who we are: a promise that ours is a city for everyone and will always be a city for everyone. In our time, we are charged with the sacred duty of keeping that promise and we won’t fail at that mission. [He cited John F. Kennedy, but I'm paraphrasing: ] The risks and costs of inaction are greater than the risks and costs of action.
And it ended with Peter, Paul and Mary singing "If I Had a Hammer."