‘Denser city’: Glen previews de Blasio’s affordable housing plan

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Alicia Glen. (Ro)
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The day before Mayor Bill de Blasio unveils his big, 10-year, 200,000-unit affordable housing plan, his deputy mayor spearheading the creation of that plan previewed her boss's speech during a keynote address at the Marriott Marquis.

"We simply cannot afford to sit idly by while middle- and low-income New Yorkers are squeezed out of the city that has prided itself on a thriving middle class," said Alicia Glen, de Blasio's deputy mayor for housing and economic development, at a luncheon hosted by the Citizens Housing and Planning Council.

Evoking Jacob Riis, the muckraking journalist whose How the Other Half Lives helped inspire the New York State Tenement House Act of 1901, and Fiorello La Guardia, who created the New York City Housing Authority, the nation's first, and Ed Koch, who revitalized New York City with vast swaths of affordable housing, Glen said, "If Jacob Riis, La Guardia and Koch taught us anything, it is this, that crisis can lead to opportunity."

"Less than a month after taking office, La Guardia established the New York City Housing Authority, the nation's first public housing authority, in the first month. Think about the 100 days we all think about now," she said, in wonderment.

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Tomorrow, four months after taking office, de Blasio will unveil his plan to build and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing in ten years time, more than the Bloomberg administration's widely lauded housing program built and preserved in 12.

Glen argued that while Bloomberg made a dent, much more is still needed.

In 2012, almost 55 percent of all rental households in New York spent more than 30 percent of their income on housing, according to Glen.

Glen promised that the plan to be unveiled tomorrow is "exhaustive and comprehensive," and outlined the principles guiding the effort.

First, "Our housing policies must address the city's changing demographics and expand the range of those who we serve," she said. "A sustainable and fair housing market has to meet the needs of all New Yorkers, and that includes both the lowest-income residents and our middle income workers, who are increasingly priced out of the city."

Second, "the city's planning processes and land use policies must be revamped," she said. "To become a more affordable city, we must become a denser city."

"For so long, density has been a bad word amongst urban planners," she went on. "But now we're realizing that density when done right is our great, great advantage. It's what drives what a good friend of mine often calls the 'infrastructure of opportunity.'"

Third, "Economic diversity must be a cornerstone of housing development. When we rezone a neighborhood and unlock substantial new housing capacity, we're not just going to encourage developers to build affordable housing, we will require it."

Also, "We know we have to get rid of inefficient regulations, reduce delays, redundancies. We need to align our tax incentive and zoning policies to drive more housing production and have a greater impact. We have to seize the opportunities we have to develop housing at public sites, not just owned by the city, but by all of our partners in the public sector."

And finally, "We must strategically protect the past investments and we have to lock in affordability in changing neighborhoods."

Glen promised that the city would put in its own money, in light of the dwindling supply of federal money for affordable housing.

"We will step up with our own capital," she said.