Bill de Blasio’s 50,000 affordable apartments: A viable plan?

From left: Bill de Blasio and NYU's Vicki Been
From left: Bill de Blasio and NYU's Vicki Been

Democratic mayoral nominee Bill de Blasio’s plan to create 50,000 units of affordable housing in eight years is no secret. But what’s less clear is whether the goal is achievable and whether making the inclusion of such housing mandatory is the key to success.

Housing experts have been slow to outright condemn the viability of de Blasio’s ambitious plan, but say it has not been successful elsewhere.

Since a mandatory inclusionary zoning law went into effect in San Francisco in 1992, 1,463 affordable apartments have been completed. Denver’s program has produced 1,133 affordable properties since 2002, and Boston has created 181 inclusionary apartments in 23 buildings since 2009.

“I didn’t think it has been a game changer everywhere, and I don’t think it is a game changer here,” Vicki Been, director of the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University, who has studied inclusionary zoning programs across the U.S., told the Wall Street Journal.

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The real factor, experts say, isn’t whether such a program is voluntary or mandatory but whether it works for developers.

“We don’t object as long as the numbers make sense,” Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, told the Journal.

De Blasio, who unveiled his affordable housing plan in April, attributed the 50,000-apartment estimate to a study by the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, an organization that represents nonprofit housing developers.

When the Journal asked the de Blasio camp for more details on his program, the campaign described a scaled-down plan that would not be citywide. [WSJ]Julie Strickland