Bill de Blasio unveils $41-billion affordable housing plan

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaking New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaking during a news conference May 1, 2014, at City Hall in Manhattan. De Blasio on Monday, May 5, 2014, released his plan to preserve 200,000 affordable housing units over the next decade. Photo Credit: AP / Seth Wenig

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Mayor Bill de Blasio Monday unveiled an ambitious $41 billion initiative to build or preserve 200,000 affordable housing units over the next decade in a city known for its high rent.

"It will take a lot more effort to implement, but when we do, it will change the face of this city forever for the good of our people," de Blasio said of the program during a Fort Greene, Brooklyn, news conference.

The administration detailed its objectives in a 115-page document, "Housing New York," saying it aims to create economically diverse communities and emphasize density. De Blasio said the units would benefit half a million residents, including seniors, low-income and homeless families.

Officials in the mayor's office gave few specifics on how the initiative will reach the 200,000-unit goal, saying only that it will use case-by-case application of zoning regulations, tax incentives, capital funding and federal programs. A study into the use of mandatory inclusionary zoning is underway.

City officials describe households with very low to extremely low incomes as those falling below 50 percent of the area median income, or those earning less than $42,000. About one million families are in that category, but only 425,000 apartments exist with rents suitable for that income level.

Affordable housing units in the 10-year plan are to be 60 percent preservations -- including buildings owned by nonprofit agencies -- and 40 percent new construction by private developers.

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The city will invest $8.2 billion over 10 years, with the remaining balance coming from state and federal coffers as well as private sources such as bonds and financing.

Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, a trade group, commended de Blasio for his plan, saying, "It identifies the problems and provides a realistic road map for solutions."

State Republican Party chairman Ed Cox said de Blasio's plan is "more aspirational than operational" and reads like a campaign paper, without a lot of details on how it will be implemented.

"It's very expensive for a dream," Cox said.

De Blasio, speaking on College Avenue in the Bronx, defended his plan as "very detailed . . . We're setting out ambitious goals so everyone here can hold us to them," he said.

City Council Member Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn), who chairs the council's housing committee, said he's excited about the plan, but hopes it can lead to developments that are "50-50" -- 50 percent market rate and 50 percent affordable -- to maximize the number of low-income residents housed.

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg adopted an 80-20 model, which provided financing and other incentives for projects that are 80 percent market-rate and 20 percent affordable. De Blasio has said he wants to use a 50-30-20 model: 50 percent market-rate, 30 percent moderate-income and 20 percent low-income.

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