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Former Pratt Center director Brad Lander at City Hall, in successful campaign to expand inclusionary zoning in New York City
A Powerful Tool for the Creation of Affordable Housing
During his first term in office, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced expansive plans to rezone more than twenty New York City communities – including the Far West Side of Manhattan, Greenpoint/Williamsburg, Long Island City, and parts of the South Bronx. As originally proposed, the plans were poised to generate more than 50,000 new units of housing, almost all of them for rent or sale at market rates.
The Pratt Center joined with community groups, advocacy and religious organizations to successfully advocate for the rezonings to generate badly needed new affordable housing for low-, moderate-, and middle-income New Yorkers, with the help of inclusionary zoning. Inclusionary zoning encourages or requires developers to set aside some units as affordable housing, and it has been used by local jurisdictions around the country - including Boston, Oakland, Denver, and Montgomery County, Maryland - to create affordable housing as a part of new market-rate housing development. Our 2004 report with PolicyLink, Increasing Housing Opportunity in New York City: the Case for Inclusionary Zoning, highlighted examples of successful inclusionary zoning as well as what it would take to make the model work in New York City.
The Campaign for Inclusionary Zoning brought together more than 70 members, including ACORN, Habitat for Humanity NYC, Housing Conservation Coordinators, St. Nicholas Neighborhood Preservation Corporation, Los Sures, and Afford Chelsea, to press for New York City to adopt inclusionary zoning as part of the rezoning plans. With Pratt Center's support the campaign worked with grassroots neighborhood organizing groups and urged the City Council to incorporate inclusionary zoning into plans for Hudson Yards and Greenpoint-Williamsburg. We joined large rallies organized by local groups in these neighborhoods. The Pratt Center provided research and support to community organizations, made dozens of presentations to community members, and educated City Council members and Bloomberg administration officials about inclusionary zoning. As a result of this groundbreaking organizing effort, the Bloomberg administration ultimately agreed to make inclusionary zoning an essential part of the Williamsburg/Greenpoint and Hudson Yards rezoning plans.
Under the rezonings, developers who build or preserve affordable housing as part of their projects receive a powerful incentive: they are permitted to erect larger buildings than they otherwise would be able to. The apartments must be permanently affordable, and priced to a range of income levels.
The Pratt Center has proceeded to work with the city, affected communities, community development corporations, and developers to implement inclusionary zoning, and will continue to advocate for inclusionary zoning to be part of rezoning plans wherever feasible.