NEW YORK CITY-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration has outlined a plan calling for 65,000 new units of affordable housing for the city over the next five years. But is this feasible? Yes, according to a panel of multifamily insiders at the Buildings New York conference yesterday.

Joshua Muss, of Muss Development, Randy Lee, of the Leewood group of companies, and William Carbine, with the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, spoke on the topic at a panel, “Will New York’s Multifamily Market Continue to Flourish? Who will Develop Housing for the Middle Class?” moderated by Stacey Corso, editor of Real Estate New York.

Of those 65,000 units, Carbine explained that 46% will be dedicated to low-income, 38% will be for moderate-income and 16% will be for middle-income residents. But while the plan is feasible, it will not be without its problems. “Sixty-five thousand units is good,” Lee said. “But 165,000 would be better.” The problem is where the city will put the units, and how fast can they be developed, he added. “To start a project today could literally take years. HPD is a wonderful agency, but it is not an agency that reacts or works like the market—nor does the building department.”

But is the affordability picture as bad as it seems? “We do agree and understand there is an issue at every level of housing,” Carbine said. “But I don’t think the picture is quite as bleak as it has been painted.” He added that the HPD has $3 billion to spend on the administration’s initiative and if more money is spent on developing affordable housing for middle-income residents, then less money will be spent on affordable housing for lower-income residents. And to make things easier, Mayor Bloomberg has also launched an extensive rezoning bid to make areas not zoned for multifamily—such as manufacturing areas—available for housing, or upzoning other areas to allow for more housing, he explained.

Adding to the view that there is not enough affordable housing in the city are people’s desires to live in certain neighborhoods, which may be less affordable than others, the panelists said. Middle-income renters can afford to rent in New York City—maybe not areas of Manhattan but in the outer boroughs, they contended. “Statistically, there are probably enough apartments available, but the problem is are they in the neighborhoods people want to live? Do they have the amenities people making $60,000 a year want?” asked Lee.

Muss agreed. “There are neighborhoods all over the city, but New York City is a city of neighborhoods,” he said. “What’s good for one person is not good for another.”

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