City tweaks affordable housing construction rules to comply with state guidelines

DOB and state rules had clashed

TRD New York /
Apr.April 15, 2020 11:30 AM
DOB Commissioner Melanie E. La Rocca (Credit: iStock)

Buildings Commissioner Melanie La Rocca (Credit: iStock)

The city has clarified what affordable housing construction is permitted under the state order halting non-essential work.

The Department of Buildings on Wednesday revised its guidelines to align with the state’s position on construction, clarifying that affordable housing work is “on a private or multiple dwelling or real property where either a minimum of 20% of the residential units are or will be deemed affordable” and is subject to a regulatory agreement. Work performed by or on behalf of a public housing agency is also considered essential.

Last week, the state updated its guidance on what constitutes affordable housing under the “New York on Pause” order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month. The state said any project where at least 20 percent of the units are income-restricted is considered affordable. That restriction clashed with the city’s description of affordable housing. The Department of Buildings had already issued guidelines that defined affordable as any project with at least 30 percent income-restricted units or that had an inclusionary housing agreement.

The confusion over what qualifies as affordable housing construction is symptomatic of issues that have cropped up as the city and state respond to the pandemic. The interpretation of state guidelines around broker showings and other real estate services has changed repeatedly in the past few weeks. The mayor and governor have also clashed over who has the authority to close New York City schools.

As of Monday, the Department of Buildings has issued more than 100 stop-work orders at construction sites that have violated the governor’s order to cease work on non-essential projects. The orders were the results of sweeps, as well as 311 calls complaining of unauthorized work. Nearly 3,000 sites throughout the city are considered active due to essential or emergency status as of Wednesday, according to a DOB map of active construction sites.

Some developers have opted to keep their sites shut down, regardless of essential status. The New York Post reported that L+M Development Partners, for example, has decided to halt work at its seven projects. As of April 10, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development had identified 34 projects that had been deemed essential but whose developers had decided to pause construction, the agency said Tuesday.

“The need for affordable housing will be even greater on the other side of this pandemic,” said Jeremy House, an HPD spokesperson. “Developers of essential affordable housing are allowed to continue construction if they choose, but only if they can ensure the safety of construction workers and the public.”

Write to Kathryn Brenzel at [email protected]


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