Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Build, don't lease

There are two arguments for building market-rate housing on the federal land leased NYCHA: 1) it'll pay for maintaining the NYCHA housing, 2) it could ease the gentrification of older housing stock in the neighborhood. The second holds a risk -- bring more market-rate tenants and you might raise surrounding real estate values, upscaling the neighborhood even further. To the extent that the EV is already upscale, I'm more worried about the Smith Houses' proximity to Chinatown, especially with the closing of the Pathmark for a huge entirely private luxury development there.

Having the city move into upscale development doesn't bother me. If the city owned all of the Upper East Side, the city would be overflowing with surplus with which to manage low-income housing in style. What bothers me is the 99-year lease in this scheme. Why doesn't the city ask the state to build, own and reap the profit of the market-rate housing?

Years ago I was on the CUNY Board of Trustees as a student rep. I saw with my own eyes that state never once rejected a construction proposal from the university. They build and redisign stuff in CUNY constantly. Some of the projects are huge. The state loves the construction industry -- big money, big contracts, lots of jobs. Look at prisons. And it's easy for the state. Just float a bond, and the money's there. In the case of luxury housing, it's even easier, since the return is faster than a college or a prison.

None of the elected officials I've talked to have shown any interest in working on an alternative to the NYCHA leasing scheme. Have they all drunk the koolade?

No comments: