Report Shows City’s SoHo Rezoning Plan Unlikely To Produce Any Affordable Housing

Housing and Tenant Activists Slam Mayor’s Plan As Sham, Giveaway To Developers

A new study released by Village Preservation today shows that Mayor de Blasio’s SoHo/NoHo Upzoning plan is likely to produce little if any of the promised affordable housing, as it’s structured to make it more profitable for developers to build entirely without affordable housing rather than with. An analysis of the 84 sites where the City projects affordable housing will be built found that on 91% of the sites developers could actually construct 100% market-rate buildings with no affordable housing that are as large as those that do include affordable housing, thus providing a tremendous disincentive to building with affordable housing (which requires developers give away 20-30% of buildable floor area to much less profitable affordable housing). In the remaining 9% of the cases, the study found that developers could construct 100% market-rate buildings with no affordable housing that are just slightly smaller than those they would be allowed to build if they did include affordable housing. But even in those cases, the amount of highly profitable market-rate space they could build would still be greater than the amount of market-rate space they could build if they included the affordable housing (which would take up 20-30% of the building), thus making it highly unlikely that they would chose to build affordable housing in those cases as well.

What can be built in the plan’s Housing Opportunity Zones with NO affordable housing.

The study also found that while the City’s plan falsely predicts that affordable housing will be built on sites where there is little or no chance of it actually being built, it also fails to account for millions of square feet of additional 100% market rate development (with no affordable housing) that will be made possible under the plan, likely largely luxury condominiums.

Andrew Berman, Executive Director of Village Preservation, said: “A simple factual analysis of the Mayor’s plan shows it’s structured to not only allow but encourage developers to build huge structures without a single square foot of affordable housing. And not just one or two times — every time. The affordable-housing loopholes in this plan are so big you can drive all 84 sites where the Mayor claims affordable housing will be built through them, and that’s no accident. This plan was designed as a giveaway to the developers who have lobbied and donated generously for it for years. If this plan is approved in the final hours of the de Blasio administration, its impact won’t be seen until long after the Mayor’s out of office, leaving New Yorkers holding the bag. The Mayor may wrap his plan in a veneer of social justice rhetoric, but it’s nothing more than a cynical scheme to line the pockets of his developer donor friends, which would push out the hundreds of remaining low- and moderate-income renters in these neighborhoods and the small businesses hanging on. But not for new affordable housing — for luxury condos, boutique office buildings, and big-box luxury chain retail stores.”

Michael McKee, Treasurer of the Tenants Political Action Committee (TenantsPAC), said: “The sheer dishonesty of the de Blasio administration in disguising the real thrust of the mayor’s SoHo/NoHo upzoning is beyond shocking. Clearly this plan, if it is approved, will not lead to an increase in truly affordable housing but will result in a glut of market-rate residential and commercial towers, as well as displacement of rent-stabilized tenants.”

Zishun Ning of the Chinatown Working Group said: “This report confirms that Mayor de Blasio’s ‘racial integration’ plan is in fact one of exclusion and displacement: exclusively luxury condos for the rich, and displacement of tenants, workers, and small businesses of the surrounding area as a result of rent and real-estate tax increase, due to the influx of these luxury high-rises. It will only benefit big developers and bad landlords like the Chu family who own multiple properties in the proposed upzoning area. Chinatown and the Lower East Side are already suffering from Extell’s 80-story tower and facing the threat of four more megatowers in Two Bridges. It will be disastrous for our communities to be saddled with more luxury supertalls. We say no to de Blasio’s displacement agenda and his fake ‘social justice’ plan, and demand he pass the Chinatown Working Group Rezoning Plan and the Community Alternative Plan for SoHo and NoHo to protect all of us from displacement.”

The study also found that while the City predicts 3.8 million square feet of new development in the area resulting from the plan (the equivalent of the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building combined), the plan would actually allow well over 10 million square feet of new development in the area, or more than three-and-a-half Empire State Buildings, most of which the plan fails to account for. It also found that about 788 out of about 899 buildings in the rezoning area would have unused residential development rights under the rezoning (currently none do). If just 5% of those buildings constructed highly profitable residential vertical enlargements (rooftop penthouse additions) of 25,000 square feet (the limit for exemptions from affordable housing requirements under the plan), it would result in an additional 1 million square feet of luxury housing added to the neighborhood without a single unit of affordable housing required, which is entirely unaccounted for by the City.

A prior study issued by Village Preservation in March found that the Mayor’s plan would likely result in the demolition of hundreds of units of rent-regulated housing, including in the Chinatown section of the rezoning, and would push out hundreds of remaining low- to moderate-income tenants in SoHo, NoHo, and Chinatown who live in this housing. It also found that the new housing created by the plan, even if it did include 20-30% affordable housing, would be more expensive and house residents who were wealthier and less diverse than the current neighborhood overall. Village Preservation and more than a dozen other SoHo, NoHo, Chinatown, and tenant groups have put forward a Community Alternative Rezoning Plan for the area that would protect existing affordable housing and its residents, and allow for the creation of deeper and more broadly affordable housing than the Mayor’s plan.

May 14, 2021