Can you take me higher? De Blasio now pledges 300K affordable units

Mayor says he can build or preserve 50% more homes than previously estimated

Mayor Bill de Blasio
Mayor Bill de Blasio

When Bill de Blasio was elected mayor in 2013, he told supporters that under his watch 200,000 units of affordable housing would be built or preserved by 2024. He called it the most ambitious housing plan in city history, a key piece of a larger vision to end what he described as a “Tale of Two Cities,” a place where the rich and powerful had City Hall’s ear but the average New Yorker was ignored.

In January, his administration announced that it was already one-third of the way to building or preserving 200,000 units. And now, they’re setting the bar even higher: de Blasio says the city will create 300,000 units by 2026.

Speaking at the CAMBA Gardens apartment complex in Brooklyn on Tuesday morning, de Blasio said that the city was ahead of schedule on its affordable housing plan and by 2021 will have the capability to build or preserve homes at a rate of 25,000 units per year, a pace that would allow them to reach a goal of 300,000 total by 2026.

To get it done, the city will be unveiling new initiatives over the coming days, and will need an extra $150 million in funding per year to make it happen.

One of the new programs, dubbed “Neighborhood Pillars,” will combine public and private dollars into a $275 million fund, and will partner with “non-profits and other mission-driven organizations” to buy up rent-stabilized buildings and maintain their affordability.

The city, which has been criticized for partnering with for-profit developers, also released a graphic that illustrated the mayor’s affordable housing progress so far. The mayor’s office claims that 77,651 affordable homes have been built or preserved since 2014, putting City Hall ahead of schedule on the original 200,000 unit plan.

Source: The City of New York Office of the Mayor

“We’ve kept our promises to New Yorkers, and now it’s time to go farther and faster,” de Blasio said in a press release. “Like Mayor Koch before us, we are building an engine that will keep families in safe, decent and affordable homes for decades to come. We will keep this a city for seniors, veterans, working families and the middle class.”​

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But critics of de Blasio’s housing plan took to Twitter to express either skepticism or a lack of enthusiasm for the new goals.

Jonathan Westin, director of New York Communities for Change, has long criticized the levels of affordability that the city’s housing plan is targeting, arguing that it creates too many middle- and upper-income units.

NYCC and nine other housing groups held an event at City Hall on Monday in which they called on de Blasio to fire his Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Housing, Alicia Glen, whom they described as an “obstacle” to a truly affordable housing plan.

In July, however, the city announced it would make changes to its plan in order to accommodate more lower-income New Yorkers. The changes lowered the number of middle income units that would be created from 44,000 to 39,000, while increasing the number of units set aside for families making less than $43,000 annually from 40,000 to 50,000.