For the first time in four years, Community Board 1 (CB1) will tonight convene a panel devoted exclusively to housing issues. The Housing Subcommittee will be chaired by Tom Goodkind, and its work may continue the research and advocacy begun by CB1’s earlier Housing Committee (also chaired by Mr. Goodkind), which produced a series of comprehensive reports identifying the Lower Manhattan buildings in which rent-stabilized apartments are available (and specifying how many are located in each), along with details about how long those protections are slated to continue.
“Many agree that housing is the most important issue facing our community,” Mr. Goodkind notes. “An unstable community of short-term residents is hardly a community at all. As real estate in Lower Manhattan continues to skyrocket in cost for both renters and unit owners, questions concerning how local residents are maintaining their footing in our area arise. With this in mind, our Community Board has decided to reinstate our Housing group.”
The agenda for Monday’s meeting (which is open to the public), includes two broad topics: “Important Housing Issues in CB1 Area,” and the “Status of Stabilization and Affordable Housing inventories.” Mr. Goodkind observes that, “at our first meeting we will work to define the major issues confronting our area today and set a path toward resolving to keep our community stable for all. We will then discuss the updating of CB1’s popular housing guides — possibly the only Community Board to have such listings.”
But these initial goals are likely to branch out into a host of more granular issues (both tonight, and in the months ahead), including the pending end of a limited form of rent stabilization in Gateway Plaza (currently slated to expire in 2020), so-called “preferential rent” (which allows landlords to collect all of the subsidies and abatements associated with affordable housing, while legally evading the requirement to limit rent increases to those permitted under rent stabilization), strategies for attracting new development of affordable housing within Lower Manhattan (along with ways to monitor compliance by developers of large new projects, such as the one planned for 130 William Street), and the demand for “naturally occurring retirement communities”(which allow seniors of limited means to age in place, rather than being forced from their homes by increased costs).
CB1’s reinstatement of a panel devoted to housing comes at a time when affordability is under siege in Lower Manhattan. A report issued earlier this year by the City’s Independent Budget Office indicates that Battery Park City and the Financial District have the highest turnover of tenants in rent-stabilized apartment units of any community in the five boroughs, when tallying buildings constructed after 1974.
A second report, compiled by the RentCafe real estate blog, concludes that the highest average rents currently charged anywhere in the United States are in northern Battery Park City (between Vesey and Chambers Streets). Using data compiled by RentCafe’s sister company, Yardi Matrix (a data analytics tool for real estate professionals), the site concludes that rents in zip code 10282, which covers northern Battery Park City, average at $5,924 per month.
A third study, by the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, a leading housing advocacy organization, examined threats to affordability in every community in the five boroughs and found that Lower Manhattan ranks among the ten most at-risk neighborhoods, as measured by two key metrics: the per-square-foot change in residential sale prices (which jumped 87 percent between 2014 to 2016), and the portion of properties sold that went to buyers who meet the definition of low-income households (which declined by 70 percent from 2011 through 2015).
A goal that Mr. Goodkind has long advocated for is that, “some of the excess revenue that the Battery Park City Authority generates each year, and remits to the City, for use in creating affordable housing around the five boroughs should be spent here.” This is a reference to the ongoing affordability crisis within Battery Park City, in which the middle-class residents who effectively built the community are being increasingly priced out by the success of what they helped to create. Mr. Goodkind has long advocated diverting some of this income stream (which amounts to more than $100 million per year) to help preserve middle-class affordability within the 92 acres of landfill that lie between the Hudson River and West Street.
In 2014, he was instrumental in persuading CB1 to enact a resolution urging, “the State and City of New York amend existing agreements to allocate Authority revenues designated toward affordable housing first to protect and increase the affordable housing stock in Battery Park City and throughout the CB1 area, allowing us to maintain and grow a more economically diverse community.”
In a separate, but related development, City Comptroller Scott Stringer (who advocates earmarking Battery Park City Authority revenues for upgrades to the crumbling housing stock overseen by the New York City Housing Authority), released a statement via Twitter on Sunday, noting that, “from 2000-2012, we lost 400,000 units that rented for under $1,0000 per month. We must build on empty, city-owned land to mitigate our housing crisis.”
Looking forward to resuming the work of the Housing panel, Mr. Goodkind noted, “mostly, it’s great to get the band back together and we’re ready to get back to work.” Tonight’s meeting will be held in CB1’s offices at the Municipal Building (One Centre Street, near the corner of Chambers Street), in the 22nd floor conference room. All interested members of the public are invited to attend.