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Four Big Affordable Housing Ideas

New York Multifamily

How will Mayor Bill de Blasio deliver on his ambition of 200,000 new or preserved affordable housing units (without a magic wand, that is)? We'll be hashing out the topic with the foremost experts on Oct. 14 at Bisnow NYC Affordable Housing Summit, starting at 7am.


1) Incentivize moderate-income development

If the 421-a tax abatement expires, one of our panelists, Hudson Cos' Aaron Koffman, recommends changing the 420-c abatement to pick up the slack. Now, it encourages low-income housing development by giving a tax break for buildings in which all units go to people earning 60% of area median income. He believes it should also encourage moderate-income units by offering the tax break to properties in which all the units go to folks making below 100% of area median income.


2) Use private capital to leverage public investment

Government subsidies alone will never cut it, says The Arker Cos’ Daniel Moritz, another expert speaking at our event. The 421-a negotiable certificate program, which provided funds for affordable housing by creating a market for private investors to buy and sell certificates of abatement, was “killed for political reasons,” he says. His company advocates bringing back the program.


3) Build the best you can within budget

Everyone wants to live in a special place, says architect Marvin Meltzer ofMontroy Andersen DeMarco. His job, whether it’s for an affordable or luxury development, is to make it as handsome as possible within the project’s budget. The biggest impact on that budget, he says, is land cost. Sites purchased a long time ago at a lower basis offer a unique opportunity to build affordable housing, as for a building he’s designing in Harlem. The owner is putting up a grocery store topped by 50k SF of affordable apartments.


Marvin’s doing fewer and fewer projects in Manhattan but has designed several in the Bronx. Construction on his design for Omni New York’s 655 Morris Ave (rendered above) in the Bronx’s Melrose community started two weeks ago. He tells us construction costs there stayed in check because the contractor was involved early and they value-engineered the building together from the start.


4) Include special needs populations

Affordable housing (and services) built specifically for veterans, seniors, and others with special needs should be included in thriving communities, says Windels Marx’s Michele Arbeeny, who will be a moderator at our event.  It’s not easy, considering sparse land, stretched subsidies, and zoning boards beholden to existing residents, but it’s what’s right, she says.

Grab your ticket for Bisnow’s NYC Affordable Housing Summit, taking place next Tuesday, Oct. 14, from 7am to 10am at The Roosevelt Hotel.