Match game: Developer to peg apartment prices to properties within 400 feet

South Williamsburgers will be able to keep up with the Joneses if they land an apartment in a proposed building — because units in the planned structure will cost whatever the Joneses pay, a developer promises.

A builder wants to win neighborhood support for a bid to replace an old garbage truck garage with 83 two- and three-bedroom residences by making a unique guarantee to keep units fairly priced by pegging rates against other housing within a 400-foot radius, rather than attempting to qualify for the city’s “affordable housing” program, which uses citywide median income as a metric.

Charging rents based on nearby properties will keep prices below the market rate, said Mitchell Ross, an attorney for the developer — and it could even turn out cheaper than many “affordable housing” units.

“It’s going to be way lower than what you see on the Northside,” said Ross, who will go before Community Board 1 tonight to seek support for a zoning variance allowing residential development on the commercial site on Rutledge and Heyward streets near Broadway.

Many builders use the city’s “affordable housing” guidelines to qualify for generous federal subsidies — but a recent study found that two-thirds of newly erected units included in the program aren’t affordable to residents in the neighborhoods where they are constructed.

Ross said the developer cannot offer traditional “affordable housing” in the two proposed six-story buildings because it will cost $3 million to decontaminate the former garage, which is riddled with oil and gasoline spills.

Instead, the developer is promising to keep prices reasonable by offering rent or sale prices comparable with neighboring buildings.

The 400-foot proposal intrigues members of CB1, who seem excited about housing replacing the garage — so long as the developer doesn’t charge luxury rates.

“The sanitation site was not serving our community board, so I’m happy to see someone fix that problem,” said CB1 member Rob Solano — who wants the 400-foot rule promised in writing.

“If you’re coming to the community board for a favor, we need to see a community benefit, not a landlord benefit,” he said.

Rabbi David Niederman, also a member of CB1, wants an ironclad guarantee that the units won’t cost more than their immediate neighbors.

“He has to come back with figures for what he’s going to charge for the apartments,” said Niederman. “It has to be something affordable to the community, not looking to bring in people who pay $1,700 or $2,000 for a one-bedroom.”

If the project gets the necessary approvals, the units should be completed in early 2015, said Ross.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.

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