Questions About Last Night’s Affordable Housing Forum at St. Ann’s

BHB reader/Heights Hero Martin L. Schneider comments on our Open Thread Wednesday this morning about last night’s affordable housing forum at St. Ann’s. We thought it warranted it’s own post.

Here’s what he had to say:

I attended the housing panel last night at St. Ann’s.

Our Councilman Steve Levin spent much time on the need for helping people in crisis…the homeless, temporary shelters, rent control which he called the “backbone of the housing program” and the complex and expensive needs in emergencies from fires and hurricanes and the like. He addressed the affordable housing, 80/20 solution which he seems to fervently believe in.

The 80/20 program is a City and State subsidy for builders which provides extra floors for buildings and other tax supported advantages to the builders in exchange for providing 20% of the units at far below market rates. Builders love it.

It seems to me that the 80/20 system which plugs people living at lower income levels into buildings with people who are, to put it politely, much better off, in fact, much, much better off, must generate serious sociological issues about those who would live that way. It also allows the City to duck any meaningful contribution to permanent housing for the working poor who number in the hundreds of thousands of families. It does all this by turning housing over to the builders themselves. The builders like it because it has been shaped to favor their financial needs to show a profit.

I have three major questions which didn’t get asked in the flurry of mostly personal questions by people seriously aggravated over their unfair treatment at the hands of greedy landlords and rapacious builders.

Question #1 : Is this a sound way to build a sense of belonging, neighborliness and community or really just a small band-aid for the working poor?

Question #2: Aside from the questionable democratic housing sociology, how many band aids have been provided so far and how many are projected over the next several years and is that number really going to make a difference in the creating a more livable city.

Question #3: Years ago, there was a meaningful and huge number of apartments developed under non-profit housing plans. The cooperative housing movement, started in the ’30s and continued on to the Coop City in the Bronx not only produced enormous numbers of successful units but also created true communities where residents enjoyed the experience of ownership, fellowship and the satisfaction of personal responsibility. The Heights Cadman Plaza coops was one of the last such projects to be created. The big question is: Why isn’t Coucilman Levin focusing at least some attention on the great potential of non-profit housing? Has the real estate board so dominated the City’s housing policy in recent years as to permanently blot out the possibilities of not-for-profit housing?

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  • Reggie

    I think Mr. Schneider answered Question #3 himself: “It seems to me that the 80/20 system … allows the City to duck any meaningful contribution to permanent housing….”

  • Muskrat

    I would like to see Levin interviewed on these questions, or perhaps the BHB can request Levin respond in writing.

  • Roberto

    The revolution which is dismantling a democratic society is encapsulated in the 80/20 system: government turns over policy decisions to monied interests. The public/private “partnership” is the code phrase which has its analog in SAPs – structural assistance programs managed by the World Bank that strip poor countries of social programs to pay the bills for corporations.

  • Roberto

    Here is the United Nations’ definition of SAPs:

    Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) are economic policies for developing countries that have been promoted by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) since the early 1980s by the provision of loans conditional on the adoption of such policies. Structural adjustment loans are loans made by the World Bank. They are designed to encourage the structural adjustment of an economy by, for example, removing “excess” government controls and promoting market competition as part of the neo-liberal agenda followed by the Bank.