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Policy: Entitlements

With big goal, NYC affordable homes plan due

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Associated Press,New York,New York City,Entitlements,Bill de Blasio,Housing

NEW YORK — New Yorkers are set to hear how Mayor Bill de Blasio plans to achieve an ambitious goal: building or preserving 200,000 affordable homes over the next 10 years.

"Some people call it difficult," he said recently, but he called the goal "as big and bold as we can possibly reach."

De Blasio was expected to release a much-awaited plan Monday. He campaigned last year on helping middle-class and poor New Yorkers, and housing costs have crystallized the squeeze they face.

In a city where renters make up two-thirds of the roughly 3 million households, median rent rose 11 percent between 2005 and 2012 to $1,216 a month, while renters' median household income rose only about 2 percent, to $41,000, according to research by New York University's Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy and Capital One Financial Corp.

De Blasio appeared in early April at groundbreaking for a privately built, nearly 800-apartment affordable housing development that he says exemplifies much of what he is trying to do. It features family-sized apartments and units reserved for the disabled, the formerly homeless and households making less than $42,000 a year for a family of four.

He has vowed to pursue mandatory inclusionary zoning, or requiring developers to include affordable units if they want permission for bigger buildings or other breaks.

De Blasio's administration also wants to legalize some illegal basement apartments, fight Albany for more rent-controlled apartments and direct $1 billion of city pension funds to building lower-rent units, among other ideas.

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg set out in 2005 to buy or rehabilitate 165,000 apartments over 10 years, and the city reported that 95 percent were done or underway by July 2013.

But housing advocates have complained that many of the homes had income limits out of reach for their neighborhoods and weren't required to be affordable forever.

"We think that with all the tools in the development process, we can get a lot more done that the previous approach allowed for," de Blasio said earlier this month.

De Blasio has already revisited a Bloomberg-era plan to redevelop a Brooklyn sugar refinery, striking a deal to boost 660 affordable apartments to 700 and make more of them two- or three-bedroom. In exchange, the planned buildings — 2,300 apartments in all — will be allowed to grow by 20 stories.

Developers understand that affordable housing is now a City Hall priority, and "we're optimistic that inclusionary housing will be a legitimate tool," says Steven Spinola, president of the influential Real Estate Board of New York. But he says landlords would need incentives — like getting to build bigger — to make projects feasible with lower income limits.

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