Upzone backfire! Board 7: Rezone for ‘affordable’ housing would have opposite effect

Upzone backfire! Board 7: Rezone for ‘affordable’ housing would have opposite effect
Department of City Planning

They say they can see the unforeseen consequences.

The city’s plan to upzone Sunset Park and Windsor Terrace to encourage cheaper housing would actually have the opposite effect, according to members of Community Board 7, which voted not to support the proposal on Nov. 18. Critics blasted the so-called Zoning for Quality and Affordability proposal, claiming it would backfire and give developers an incentive to knock down the areas’s existing cheap housing and replace it with pricier digs.

“All the things that they thought were benefits in our neighborhood are actually detriments to creating affordable housing,” said board member John Fontillas.

“We don’t build affordable housing in Sunset Park, we preserve it. It’s already existing, our pressure is that we’re losing it.”

Board members voted 26–2 with five abstentions against the plan, which would let developers to tack five feet onto just about any building and up to two stories on buildings along Sunset Park’s commercial corridors if they include a portion of senior or below-market-rate housing.

The city rezoned parts of Sunset Park and Windsor Terrace in 2009 under significant pressure from the community to protect the neighborhoods from developers who wanted to build up. Both proposals would threaten community members’ previous efforts to preserve low-rise and existing affordable housing in the district, another board member said.

“Even if its for a noble cause — the assumption here is that we want to zone to have more affordable housing — the reality is that it completely ignored what people fought for and the reason they fought for that and the character of some of these neighborhoods,” said Randy Peers.

The board was split over a companion proposal called Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, which would require developers in certain areas build affordable housing or pay into an affordable housing fund as part of any project that requires a rezoning.

The board’s committee voted against the plan and recommended the full board follow suit. The body voted 15–11 in favor with eight abstentions, but the results did not present a clear enough majority, and the motion died.

Reach reporter Dennis Lynch at (718) 260–2508 or e-mail him at dlynch@cnglocal.com.