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

Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, will testify later today in front of the City Planning Commission in support of the proposed Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) text amendments. The city cannot achieve its ambitious affordable housing production goals if it does not use the zoning code to create new incentives and reduce per unit costs, as proposed in the ZQA amendments. Below is a transcript of her testimony, as prepared for delivery.

TESTIMONY BEFORE THE CITY PLANNING COMMISSION

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

Kathryn Wylde

President & CEO, Partnership for New York City

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

 

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. During that period, the affordable housing shortage was a result of the loss of hundreds of thousands of units to fire and abandonment. It reflected a weak market that could not support private investment. Today, we have a thriving residential market but with similar consequences – the vast majority of New Yorkers cannot afford to purchase or rent a home or apartment here.

The city tax base is not broad or deep enough to subsidize housing for the 21% of the population that lives in poverty or the 47% of the population that is forced to pay more than a third of their income in housing costs. The city no longer has the inventory of tax-foreclosed properties to contribute to reducing the cost of affordable housing nor access to sufficient federal housing funds to support a pipeline of low income housing production. Zoning actions to increase density and reduce costs are among the only significant tools the city has to induce the development of housing that responds to the needs of our growing population of low, moderate and middle income New Yorkers.

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 Commission and City Council to move forward with their 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.