With this year’s crop of Democratic mayoral candidates pledging to increase subsidies for middle class housing, The New York Observer took a closer look at the phenomenon. It may come as a surprise to those under, say, 35, but subsidized housing for the middle class in New York is not a new development:
It may be hard to see it now, but public and subsidized housing in New York was, in its early heyday, a middle-class effort aimed at shoring up declining neighborhoods. Programs like Mitchell-Lama that subsidized new construction through low-cost mortgages to developers were meant to prevent people who could afford the suburbs from fleeing the city. Rising housing costs weren’t the problem—they were the goal.
The article mentions one such development in Brooklyn, the Acacia in Bed Stuy. The building, on the corner of Fulton and Albany, which started renting last year, offered “affordable” units for a range of incomes, starting at $377 for a one-bedroom. The market-rate one-bedrooms started at $1,887 a month. Under Bloomberg, only 11,877 subsidized housing units out of a total of 147,890 created are defined as “middle income,” the story said. Yet the income levels allowed for subsidized housing are creeping ever upward, with little official public discussion. Take, for example, 389 Kent Avenue on the waterfront in Williamsburg, where a one-person household can earn up to $101,675 a year. Perhaps, in the context of Williamsburg’s ever increasing housing prices, this qualifies as needy? Critics of Atlantic Yards, including Council Member Tish James, have pointed out that the units may prove unaffordable to low-income New Yorkers as rising incomes in the area skew the prices and qualifications upward. For our part, we’ve always been puzzled by how rates of “affordable” housing seem so close to market rates. What the article doesn’t explore: Is middle class subsidized housing a giveaway to developers, who stand to make more in rents and sales? What do you think: Should the City subsidize housing for the middle class in Brooklyn? And what counts as middle class in this borough?
Market-Rate Rentals Coming for Bed Stuy’s Acacia [Brownstoner]