2006_12_cityhall.jpgWhat do slumlords, apartment-seekers, and big real estate developers around the city have in common? Not much. But the latest debate in City Hall should have all of them closely watching the reforms of 421-a, a bill that will decide the future of New York City’s affordable housing policy and long-term housing stock if passed by the state legislature.

City Council members will vote tomorrow on reforms to a bill originally designed to provide tax incentives for real estate development in the 1970s, but has now become the source of contentious proposals for those seeking new housing construction and those advocating for such housing to be affordable to middle- and low-income households. How does this work? Give tax breaks to private developers so they build more condos, but only if they provide a certain amount affordable units in condos constructed in the area known as the exclusionary zone.

This zone is at the center of the debate. Mayor Bloomberg recommends that the exclusionary zone be expanded. While Council Speaker Christine Quinn supports his plan, her council-endorsed plan includes greater expansion of the zone into both Manhattan and Brooklyn. Other plans such as the one proposed by City Councilmember Annabel Palma suggest the compete elimination of the zone and making the requirement citywide. Whatever the outcome, real estate-obsessed New Yorkers will be curious to see how the legacy of Starrett City, Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town will be continued, if at all. For now, the affordable housing debate is here with us to stay.

Photo of City Hall by Triborough on flickr