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Testimony by Kathryn Wylde, President & CEO of the Partnership for New York City, on Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability

Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, will testify later today in front of the Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee of the New York City Council in support of the proposed Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) text amendments. Her full testimony is below.

According to Wylde, “a massive, collaborative approach is required to meet the demand for affordable housing that neither government nor the private sector can accomplish on its own…In order to launch a housing production program that matches the scale of need, the city has to rely on changing its zoning requirements, more flexible design and use of air rights, in order to accommodate greater density and to create value that can be leveraged for the public good. This cannot be accomplished in a timely fashion or at scale unless it is a citywide zoning policy.”

TESTIMONY BEFORE THE ZONING AND FRANCHISES SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL

 

On the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) Text Amendments

Kathryn Wylde

President & CEO

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

 

The Partnership for New York City is an organization of business leaders and major employers. For the past 35 years, the Partnership has worked with government, labor and the nonprofit sector to address major challenges facing the city, including the recurring challenge of a shortage of affordable housing.

During the 1980s, the Partnership co-sponsored a program with the city and state that was the largest producer of new affordable housing on vacant land across the five boroughs. At that time, the affordable housing shortage was a result of the loss of hundreds of thousands of residential buildings to fire and abandonment and deterioration of neighborhoods that could not attract private investment.  The city was emerging from a fiscal crisis and had virtually no capital budget to invest in housing. Despite these most challenging conditions, collectively, the city, state and federal governments, the banks and builders, community development organizations and nonprofit intermediaries, created city-wide, scalable programs that produced 500,000 new and rehabilitated affordable homes and apartments over the course of two decades.

Today, conditions are very different but the same type of massive, collaborative approach is required to meet the demand for affordable housing that neither government nor the private sector can accomplish on its own. We also need new tools to address challenges that make delivery of affordable housing so difficult: the high cost of land and construction and skyrocketing market values that put market rents and home prices far beyond the reach of most New Yorkers. The city no longer has an inventory of tax foreclosed land and buildings to dedicate to affordable housing. Today, in order to launch a production program that matches the scale of need, the city has to rely on changing its zoning requirements, more flexible design and use of air rights,  in order to accommodate greater density and to create value that can be leveraged for the public good. This cannot be accomplished in a timely fashion or at scale unless it is a citywide zoning policy. It cannot be done site by site or neighborhood by neighborhood if we want to see the ambitious development that is urgently needed to keep our city diverse and strong.

The Partnership does not agree with all the details of the zoning proposals before you. Municipal mandates are not popular with the business community. Nor do we agree with social engineering that requires affordable units be located within developments or districts that command the highest market rates and, consequently, deprive lower income communities of the subsidies needed to accommodate the weakest markets.

Despite these differences, the Partnership supports the zoning proposals before you and urges the City Council to move forward with its approval and to avoid amendments that reduce the city’s flexibility and discretion in administering these new tools. The only solution to the affordability crisis in a city that is growing and prospering is MORE housing, which means greater height and density, reduced parking and set back requirements, and wide latitude to design and develop properties toward a single goal: maximum utilization of sites for housing to reach the lowest income households with minimum commitment of city-funded subsidies, which will always be inadequate to the needs. The zoning amendments are generally structured to achieve these goals and should be adopted quickly.

Thank you.