New bill seeks to reform how AMI is calculated for 421a projects

Affordability would be calculated based on individual zip codes

Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblymember Brian Barnwell
Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblymember Brian Barnwell

A new bill seeks to change how affordability in housing projects is calculated, a measure that could dramatically reshape the makeup of projects built under a new 421a.

Democratic State Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblymember Brian Barnwell introduced legislation that would change how area media income (AMI) is calculated. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development looks at AMI regionally, using a formula that lumps the five boroughs together with Putnam, Westchester, and Rockland counties. For 2016, the HUD placed the region’s AMI at $65,200.

The proposed legislation would require affordable housing developers to instead calculate AMI based on the specific zip code of the area where the project is being built.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

“It shouldn’t matter what is affordable in Westchester to determine what is affordable in Queens,” Barnwell said in a statement. “This proposal will help lifelong residents of the area to be better able to actually afford the new housing. No longer will lifelong residents be forced out due to gentrification.”

The bill specifically singles out 421a projects — though the legislation doesn’t use the new proposed name for the program, Affordable New York — noting that these and other affordable housing developments would be required to use the new AMI formula. The latest proposal to revive the tax abatement offers six different affordability options, requiring a certain number of units in each project to be for tenants making anywhere from 40 percent to 130 percent of AMI.

Last week, Upper East Side Sen. Liz Krueger criticized one option that extends a 35-year abatement to projects citywide and requires 30 percent of each project’s units to be at 130 percent of AMI, which she said isn’t sufficiently affordable.

The new proposed rules would apply to future projects and not those that are already approved under previous contracts.