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Mayor Bill De Blasio Set To Unveil Affordable Housing Plan

Mayor Bill de Blasio (credit: Getty Images)

Mayor Bill de Blasio (credit: Getty Images)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — With housing costs rising out of reach for many in the nation’s biggest city, Mayor Bill de Blasio has vowed to build or preserve an ambitious 200,000 affordable homes over the next 10 years.

He is expected Monday to lay out how he plans to do it.

“Some people call it difficult,” he said recently, but he called the goal “as big and bold as we can possibly reach.”

De Blasio campaigned last year on helping middle-class and poor New Yorkers, and housing costs have crystallized the squeeze they face.

In a city where renters make up two-thirds of the roughly 3 million households, median rent rose 11 percent from 2005 to 2012, to $1,216 a month, while renters’ median household income rose only about 2 percent, to $41,000, according to New York University’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy.

More than 1 million city households now spend 30 percent or more of their income on rent and utilities, passing the threshold of what housing officials generally consider affordable; nearly 600,000 pay 50 percent or more.

De Blasio often emphasized his affordable housing goal during his campaign, and four months into his mayoralty, residents are looking to the Democrat to deliver.

A New York Times/NY1/Siena College Poll released April 7 found 52 percent of New Yorkers disapproved of how he was addressing affordable housing availability, while 35 percent approved. The poll surveyed 1,190 city residents and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

With shovel in hand, de Blasio appeared that same day at a groundbreaking for a privately built, nearly 800-apartment Brooklyn affordable housing development that “exemplifies so much of what we believe in,” he said.

It features family-sized apartments and units reserved for the disabled, the formerly homeless and households making less than $42,000 a year for a family of four.

He also has vowed to pursue mandatory inclusionary zoning, or requiring developers to include affordable units if they want permission for bigger buildings or other breaks.

De Blasio’s administration also wants to legalize some illegal basement apartments, fight Albany for more rent-controlled apartments and direct $1 billion of city pension funds to building lower-rent units, among other ideas.

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg set out in 2005 to buy or rehabilitate 165,000 apartments over 10 years, and the city reported that 95 percent were done or underway by July 2013. But housing advocates have complained that many of the homes had income limits out of reach for their neighborhoods and weren’t required to be affordable forever.

“We think that with all the tools in the development process, we can get a lot more done that the previous approach allowed for,” de Blasio said last month.

De Blasio already has revisited a Bloomberg-era plan to redevelop a Brooklyn sugar refinery, striking a deal to boost 660 affordable apartments to 700 and make more of them two- or three-bedroom. In exchange, the planned buildings — 2,300 apartments in all — will be allowed to grow by 20 stories.

Housing advocates are pressing for the new plan to go further: a 50-50 or higher ratio of market-rate to affordable units instead of the 80-20 that’s standard now.

Developers understand that affordable housing is now a City Hall priority, and “we’re optimistic that inclusionary housing will be a legitimate tool,” says Steven Spinola, president of the influential Real Estate Board of New York. But he says landlords would need incentives — like getting to build bigger — to make projects feasible with lower income limits.