New York City's production of affordable housing dropped this fiscal year while units for homeless and seniors and supportive housing reached an all time high, according to city data released on Tuesday.
Altogether, the city created or preserved 25,299 affordable housing units, raising the total to 135,437 units since 2014. That puts Mayor Bill de Blasio on track to achieving his desired goal of creating 300,000 affordable units by 2026.
The recent numbers, however, reflected a 22 percent drop compared to last year, when the city produced 32,244 affordable housing units.
In an interview with NY1, Vicki Been, the city’s deputy mayor for housing and economic development, said the disparity was from an unusual opportunity last year in the form of an agreement to preserve the affordability of roughly 5,000 units at Starrett City, a housing complex in East New York.
"That's a very rare portfolio,” she said. We can't do that every year. So our numbers are perfectly on target."
Nonetheless, a landlord group seized on the decline in the wake of the state's rent reform laws which provide rent-regulated tenants with greater protections.
"The latest numbers out of City Hall show a troubling downward trend that is sure to get worse," said Jay Martin, a spokesperson for Community Housing Improvement Program, in a statement. "The current Rent Stabilization laws, passed earlier this year in Albany, will lead to less affordable housing."
However, suggesting that landlords' concerns may be overstated, a Wall Street Journal story on Wednesday reported that an investment group had struck a deal to pay $1.2 billion for a portfolio of 2,800 New York rental apartments with an eye towards converting two-thirds of the units into affordable units.
In answer to criticisms that de Blasio has failed to provide deeper affordability to those who need it the most, a City Hall press release highlighted the record gains made in affordable units for the homeless, seniors and supportive housing.
The administration noted that 54 percent of the total units financed this year will serve very low-income families earning less than $48,000 per year.
The number of affordable units for the homeless—2,682—and seniors—1,958—rose to record highs. Back in 2014, the city created only 523 units for the homeless and 602 units for seniors. Homeless advocates have repeatedly assailed the mayor for not producing enough permanent affordable housing for the homeless. The administration has said units for the homeless and seniors are more costly to produce.
On Wednesday, the Coalition for the Homeless responded to the data with a tweet suggesting that the gains were still not enough to address what has been an ongoing crisis in homelessness.
"Until the mayor prioritizes homeless New Yorkers in his [housing] plan, the City will continue spending billions on housing without meaningfully reducing homelessness." - Jacquelyn Simone, CFH Policy Analyst https://t.co/EL7OjvRMf8 @politicony @SallyGold
— Coalition for the Homeless (@NYHomeless) July 31, 2019
In the mayor's press release, Louise Carroll, the commissioner for the city's Housing and Preservation Development agency, said, "Creating homes for seniors, the homeless, and those in need of supportive services has always been a priority, and this year we've reached a milestone that makes our commitment to the most vulnerable among us crystal clear."