Saturday, February 17, 2007

Research money for displacement? Not likely.
Monday evening (2/12) NYU held a forum on "Housing and America's Future" to announce a $25,000,000 grant for research on housing from the MacArthur Foundation. The speakers included Shaun Donovan, the city's Housing Preservation and Development commissioner. I was struck by the rhetoric: where Denise Scott of the Local Initiative Support Corporation gave highest priority to "neighborhood preservation" in light of the rapid loss of existing affordable housing in the city, Donovan talked about "rebuilding communities" with inclusionary zoning. When I pointed out the tension between preservation and rebuilding, and the strong possibility that the displacement induced by rebuilding could result in a net loss of affordable housing especially since the mayor refuses to implement IZ without an upzoning (i.e, upscaling), Donovan replied that "growing the city" motivates the city's plans.

If the goal were affordable housing *and* community preservation, IZ would be offered without upzoning. So far as I can tell, the goal is upzoning, plain and simple; IZ is included in the upzoning solely to get support for neighborhood upscaling from affordable housing advocates committed to the construction of new units. The unfortunate effect of the mayor's carrot to affordable housing advocates has been to demonize community preservationists who see the upzoning as a threat to existing housing. Now that the 421a tax break in our district is going to require the construction of new affordable housing rather than the renovation and preservation of existing affordable housing, developers will have no incentive to renovate and preserve existing affordable housing.

Donovan's characterization of 80% market-rate and 20% affordable as creating or preserving "a mixed-income community" seemed to me an extreme of administrative cynicism. Others in the audience were likewise appalled.

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