New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office has endorsed a newly announced partnership between two city pension funds and Hudson Companies to develop housing for middle-class families.
But the $250 million project’s mix falls short of the affordable housing plans that Stringer and other mayoral hopefuls have campaigned on, proposing rents that housing advocates say misses the mark.
Intended to house the working class, the partnership’s plan allots city pension funds to build homes across the five boroughs and surrounding counties. If similar projects from the past are any indication, about 30 percent of units in New York City buildings will likely be set aside as affordable to those earning the area median income, or AMI. The rest will be for households earning up to 200 percent of AMI.
The advocacy group Community Service Society of New York said it is not clear that developments will be targeted toward those who need affordable housing the most.
“‘Middle income’ is something of a term of art,” said Samuel Stein, housing policy analyst at the nonprofit. “But when the city uses these words, they generally refer to households earning between 121 and 165 percent of the area median income. In other words, people who are doing somewhat better than the regional average.”
Stringer’s mayoral campaign housing plan calls for developments that set aside 25 percent of units to those earning less than 60 percent of the area median income.
But in a statement Monday, Yvonne Nelson, the comptroller office’s head of real estate, championed the partnership as “preserving affordability in New York City.”
Stringer’s mayoral campaign did not return a request for comment on the discrepancy.
Meanwhile, mayoral candidates Ray McGuire and Kathryn Garcia have both said that affordable housing should go to those earning under 30 percent of the area median income.
“The ongoing recovery from the pandemic requires us to build and preserve housing at all affordability levels, including workforce housing for the men, women and families who keep our city running,” said Hudson Companies principal Joe Riggs.
A 2018 report by the comptroller’s office found the need for housing among middle-income families — those the partnership’s affordable component would purportedly service — amounted to only 7,895 units. CSSNY said Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Housing New York 2.0 plan committed to finance the development of over 28,000 such units.
“In other words, the city is already overproducing housing for middle-income families,” said Stein.
In 2020, Mayor Bill de Blasio committed to setting aside more than 50 percent of new construction rentals to those earning less than 30 percent of the area median income.
A February report by CSSNY found the mayor had designated the majority of housing programs throughout his tenure to those earning 50-80 percent of the area median income, the highest levels permitted by federal programs.
Affordable housing advocates have called for future plans to prioritize “deeply affordable housing” — units built for those on fixed incomes or making less than 30% of the area median income, as outlined in a Right to a Roof report issued in February by a coalition of advocacy groups.
“While there is a need for affordable housing for households of varying incomes, the city’s priority must be to create more housing options for people of much lower incomes than those the Hudson Companies and the pension funds are targeting in their new development,” said Stein.
However, the higher rents do serve a purpose: The press release announcing the plan notes that it is expected to provide the city’s pension systems with “a competitive return on its investment.”