At a public hearing her office held Monday evening, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer heard testimony from 55 speakers on two proposed amendments to the city’s zoning code advanced by the de Blasio administration: a new Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) program and a slate of changes known as Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA). An audience of more than 250 people filled all available seats as the hearing began in the basement gymnasium of the Clinton School, on East 15th Street near Union Square.
In her opening remarks, Brewer stated her support for the proposals’ goal of spurring quality affordable housing development across the five boroughs, but raised concerns with specific provisions of both proposals.
With respect to the ZQA proposal, Brewer flagged the prospect of significant height increases of 25 or even 50 feet being made possible when ZQA’s changes are combined with certain existing opt-in affordable housing programs, such as the city’s voluntary inclusionary housing program. This program has long been criticized as wasteful and flawed, and Brewer has repeatedly urged Mayor de Blasio’s administration to reform the program as part of its affordable housing plan.
“I think the voluntary inclusionary housing program should be fixed so that we know it is providing us with the maximum and best opportunities for affordable housing in return for this added height,” said Brewer. “That means prohibiting ‘poor doors,’ requiring more affordable housing in our hottest neighborhoods, and preventing double dipping with the 421-a program.”
Borough President Brewer coordinated a response to the ZQA proposal by virtually all Manhattan elected officials last spring in a letter, and the Administration responded with modifications; both letters are viewable here: bit.ly/ZQALetters
With respect to the MIH proposal, Brewer voiced strong support for the concept, saying, “if it were up to me, all new significant residential developments would require some affordable housing.” Brewer raised specific concerns about how the program’s requirements would be triggered, the need for strong anti-harassment protections for rent-stabilized tenants, and how the city will spend dedicated affordable housing funds raised under the plan.
As part of the city’s land-use review process, Borough President Brewer will issue a formal recommendation on the ZQA and MIH zoning amendments at a later date. Read more…