By Brian J. Pape, AIA, LEED-AP
Mayor de Blasio issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for three NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA) vacant land sites last year for the private development of affordable housing. It is called “Next Generation NYCHA” and it differs from the Bloomberg administration’s efforts in several ways.
Mayor Bloomberg set a goal of 150,000 new or preserved affordable housing units during his tenure, and by some measures, he achieved those goals. Keep in mind that the majority of those units, and Mayor de Blasio’s goal of 200,000 units, are in the ‘preserved’ category. Nevertheless, building 10,000 new affordable housing units, now almost entirely without federal dollars, is a formidable task.
Bloomberg’s new housing was mainly on NYCHA land in high demand areas in Manhattan, such as near the High Line; de Blasio’s sites start at the ‘fringes’ of the Bronx and Brooklyn, where there is less demand for development. Bloomberg’s RFP allowed a majority of the new units to be rented at market rates while de Blasio’s RFP requires that 100% contain affordable rates.
Who qualifies as a tenant?
To apply for one of these units, your family income may not exceed 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI) annually for NYC. For an individual, the 60% limit is currently $36,300 and for a family of four it is $51,780. Preference is given to current NYCHA tenants, and for community board residents. The developers are required to notify and involve neighbors and tenants during the entire planning and development process. Part of the goal is to minimize community disruption, hopefully placing tenants and neighbors into housing within their old neighborhood. Two of the three sites are 100% senior housing.
What are the design guidelines?
Design guidelines go beyond the NYCHA and the Fair Housing Act (FHA) rules and NYC building codes. All new construction must also apply “Enterprise Green Communities” guidelines to optimize environmental resources and economize operations, and “Active Design” guidelines to promote healthy lifestyle options in daily activities. All designs must also be approved by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD).
All of the developments are “ground lease” contracts, meaning that NYCHA retains land ownership over a long-term lease, at just $1 annually, and all reverts back to NYCHA at the end. Primary financing scenarios may not require competitive financing from Federal, State, or City governments, but multiple subsidy sources may be used. Preference will be given to proposals that give the NYCHA “competitive percentages of developer fee proceeds” or profits to use on other NYCHA needs.
Leasing, operating, and managing the developments is the responsibility of the developers, but they will report their operations to NYCHA for review, and their governance (or management) must follow NYCHA rules. Each development will include a community center and other amenities on the ground floor. Rent regulation systems shall remain in place for the entire program life, or a minimum of 30 years.
The City sees this RFP as a first step in its efforts to achieve affordable housing goals. All NYCHA sites within the five boroughs will be evaluated for future RFPs, so even Queens and Staten Island will share the benefits of affordable housing and mass transportation.