Wednesday, September 7, 2011

80/20 Affordable Housing

A good primer on the strange world of affordable housing construction in New York City:

Emerald Green was built under the auspices of 80/20 — through which 80 percent of the apartments are rented for market-rate prices and then are subject to rent stabilization guidelines, and 20 percent are reserved for those making less than 50 percent of the area’s median income, which varies by location and family size, but is in the ballpark of $80,000. More than 20,000 rental apartments have been built under this program over the years, 4,200 of them reserved for affordable housing.

It's depressing, but I've always thought that mixed-income housing is a pipe dream that city governments should abandon.  Rich people just don't want to bump elbows with the proletariat.  Developers in New York seem to get around this with remarkably invasive screenings of the "low-income" tenants.  As the article details, "In addition to meeting very strict financial criteria . . . applicants often have to provide references and credit histories; they are even subject to home visits."  In effect, the city's affordable housing programs end up subsidizing grad students, artists, and other low-income, high-social-capital misfits.  If the point is to help the poor, why not just write them a check instead of all this indirect administrative tomfoolery?

Steve Clowney

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