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The Problem Of Setting A Unit Target When It Comes To Affordable Housing

Bisnow's podcast, Make Yourself At Home, hears from members of the commercial real estate industry about how they are managing this new reality and gaining insight into their day-to-day approaches. You can subscribe on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon Music.

Jessica Katz

On this episode, we speak to Jessica Katz, the executive director of the Citizens Housing Planning Council — an 80-year-old think tank dedicated to improving housing in the city. Katz joined the nonprofit after years at the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and on the podcast she addresses the challenge of setting an affordable housing unit target — which Mayor Bill de Blasio and many of the current mayoral candidates have done.

That should not be the central consideration of New York's housing policy, she said, though it is a very important management tool.

“It’s not a housing policy. We’re building an ever greater amount of units, but I don’t think your average New Yorker understands what the purpose of those units is, who they are for and here they are. I think we’ve really fallen down on the job as a communications strategy,” she said.

“By focusing just on a unit target, there’s lots of things in the housing policy that we miss — we don’t talk about asthma rates, which is greatly affected by housing policy. We don’t talk about the New York City Housing Authority, which is excluded from those numbers. It allows us to claim mission accomplished on the housing target when the homeless numbers are going up and up and up.”