Friday, February 17, 2017

Gilmartin: number of affordable applications "reaffirmed urgency" of building 2,250 units (so where are they?)

I missed this 12/28/16 end-of-year wrap-up by Curbed, which had a quote from Forest City Ratner CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin, "[o]n realizing a Brooklyn megaproject in 2016."

Her statement:
“Pacific Park may have had the longest beginning of any project in city history, and no one, including us, could have anticipated how this project would fundamentally transform Brooklyn. 2016 was certainly a banner year for the project. Six Pacific Park properties are now under construction, and our affordable housing lotteries attracted tens of thousands of applicants. Last month, 461 Dean became Pacific Park’s first residential property to open. After a decade of planning and building, it would be hard to overstate the emotions we feel that families now call Pacific Park home.”
“We knew there was an affordable housing crisis in Brooklyn, but we were floored by the number of applicants we received for below market-rate units at Pacific Park. Over 84,000 applicants applied for 181 units at 461 Dean. We knew it was important for us to bring 2,250 affordable units to the borough, but this reaffirmed the urgency of the situation.”
(Emphases added)

First, for two of those six properties there's been exactly zero progress in months--the 615 Dean site (B12)  is looking for a new investor, and the 664 Pacific site (B15) is stalled by litigation involving a neighboring property.

Second, the residential project has not fundamentally transformed Brooklyn, since it's taken so long. It will be interesting to see how Prospect Heights and points north may/will be knit together if/when the railyard is platformed and built on.

The march of towers down Flatbush Avenue, all the way to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, has already gone part of the way to redefining the skyline around Downtown Brooklyn, while Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park will transform part of Brooklyn, transposing downtown scale and extreme density into neighborhood Brooklyn.

If/when a giant project at Site 5 is built, depending on the bulk, that could be more broadly transformational, and likely in a very mixed way.

Has the arena transformed Brooklyn? Well, it's certainly brought a higher profile and catalyzed new retail investment. But until/unless it removes the "blight" of the below-grade railyard, we should be cautious. After all, changes in/around the Brooklyn Academy of Music nearby are also transformational, in terms of retail, according to Crain's.

Affordable housing: demand for lower-income units

So, because there were 84,000 applicants for below-market units--half the units at 461 Dean--this reaffirmed the urgency of the need to build all 2,250 units? If so, then why are so many of the apartments in the next two buildings aimed at households earning six figures, not the people who need it most? 

If so, why aren't they building more affordable units next? The next two projects, currently stalled or delayed, are B12, a condo tower, and B15, an all-market rental tower, with a school at its based.

And how much of a dent can the project make by the 2025 deadline for the affordable units?

Note that Curbed 2/15/17 reported that 87,000 people applied for the affordable units at 325 Kent Avenue, the first rental building in the New Domino project. That's an 80/20 building, so there are fewer units, but all for low-income households:
The question of what’s deemed “affordable” can hang over the apartments that come to market as part of these lotteries. But in the case of 325 Kent, the units were aimed at lower-income New Yorkers making up to 50 percent of the area median income (so, at the high end, about $45,000 for a family of four). None of the affordable units themselves (a mix of studios, and one- and two-bedrooms) will rent for more than about $1,000.
That reflects the fact that the need--and thus demand--is highest for lower-income units. Supplying middle-income affordable units helps get the numbers up, and certainly represents good fortune for those winning the lottery, but is hardly addressing the "urgency of the situation"

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