Shauna Miller is a writer based in Washington, D.C. She is the former managing editor of CityLab.
A controversial building has seen an extraordinary number of applicants for just 55 available affordable units.
The New York Times reported Monday that more than 88,000 people had applied for 55 modestly priced apartments inside a luxury residential building on the waterfront of Manhattan's Upper West Side. From the Times:
“I guess people like it,” said Gary Barnett, founder and president of Extell Development Company, the tower’s developer. “It shows that there’s a tremendous demand for high-quality affordable housing in beautiful neighborhoods.”
Talk about an understatement. But there's a catch. Last July, CityLab's Sarah Goodyear wrote about the objections of affordable housing advocates to a so-called “poor door,” or separate entrance, approved for the affordable portion of this building. The New York Post cried “Class Doorfare.”
These sorts of separate entrances are actually mandated by "inclusionary housing" zoning rules that have been in place for years, as the Times reports: "[I]f the developer chooses to attach the affordable segment to the market-rate portion of the project, it is required to provide separate entrances." This zoning law also allows developers—as in this case—to build larger than they would otherwise be permitted to.
Developers like Extell support the current zoning rules for that reason. And some housing advocates do as well, since it does result in more affordable housing—even if "poor door" residents won't be able to use the building's pool, gym, bowling alley, or private theater. The two doors even give the building two separate addresses: 50 Riverside Boulevard for the high-end units and 470 West 62nd Street for the lower-income rental units.
Households with incomes of $30,240 to $50,340 qualify for the reduced-rent units, which list for $1,082 for a two-bedroom, $895 for a one-bedroom, and $833 for a studio apartment.
Goodyear notes in her piece that affordable housing deals made by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration "resulted in exactly this kind of income segregation, with less wealthy residents being pushed not just to the 'poor door,' but to the geographical margins of the city." Mayor Bill de Blasio, however, promised to improve such policies and create or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing.
Creating separate and unequal "inclusionary housing" is one way to create affordable units that New Yorkers clearly want—and to please developers. But it certainly doesn't help improve the perception of a giant gap between the haves and have-nots.
Top Image: Rickey Rogers/Reuters