Affordability and authencity in NY’s new housing plan

     In Mayor de Blasio’s State of the City Address earlier this month, he highlights his next priority for his administration is to create affordable housing throughout the city. He is concentrating on six neighborhoods in all five boroughs in New York City that would be mandated to create the units. According to The Observer, he plans to build 80,000 units of new affordable housing and preserve another 120,000 units- equating to approximately half-million people.

     The triumph of this plan is the vision itself, one that sets the stage for a more equitable and inclusive city. The plan is grounded in the notion of replacing voluntary ‘inclusionary zoning’, which has let many developers off the hook for providing affordable housing.

     But there is some disagreement by potentially affected neighborhood residents who feel that this will cause gentrification. Not only in altering the type of affordability to those who really need it but in the changing aesthetic and authenticity of the cityscape that new and long-time residents have appreciated.

     The key aspect to avoid this is to achieve what the Mayor has already emphasized: preserving the 120,000 housing units instead of building new ones that may alienate the existing community. This retains authenticity and creates a sense of dignity for local residents. Equally important, this strategy promotes a ‘reduce’ and ‘reuse’ culture and allows for mixed-use spaces. Energy efficiency is not the only target. The reduce and reuse culture also feeds into the larger strategy of the city meeting their C02 reduction goals while also sponsoring shared values of affordability and authenticity. It is a vision to emulate by many cities.

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