Full Council Passes Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability Proposals by an Overwhelmingly Majority Vote

Image credit: NYCC/William Alatriste

Image credit: NYCC/William Alatriste

Despite disruption from Council public gallery, the modified plans were adopted without suspense.  On March 22, 2016, the City Council voted to approve Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability proposals at its stated meeting. The full vote follows extensive modifications by the Council to the original plan. The approved text amendments are significantly different from the earlier versions voted on by the Community Board and City Planning. For CityLand’s past coverage and comprehensive explanation of modifications made to the proposals, click here.

The full City Council approved the MIH proposal by a vote of 42-5, with Council Members Inez Barron, Joe Borelli, Barry Grodenchik, Jumaane Williams, and Steven Matteo voting against the proposal. The Council approved the ZQA proposal by a vote of 40-6-1, with Council Members Barron, Borelli, Andrew Cohen, Grodenchik, Paul Vallone, and Matteo voting against the proposal, and Council Member Rosie Mendez abstaining from the vote.

At the very beginning of the Council roll call vote on the proposals, protestors disrupted the chambers of City Hall by chanting, “City Council vote no! MIH has got to go!” Immediately after the protestors were escorted out of the Council’s chambers, the Council was required to delay the voting process further to wait for an ambulance and NYPD to assist an injured person, who had been watching the meeting from the balcony level.

When voting finally resumed more than twenty minutes later, almost half of the Council Members in attendance explained their votes.

Many Council Members reminded naysayers that the income levels set out in the MIH proposal are a required minimum and that developers would be allowed to provide even deeper levels of affordability. In fact, Council Member Vanessa Gibson even claimed that she is “determined” to bring more affordable housing at 30 percent AMI than the MIH requires.

Council Member Brad Lander discussed the importance of Mandatory Inclusionary Housing today in relation to what it could have prevented if it had been implemented 10 years ago. In 2003, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Administration proposed to up-zone part of Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn, but requiring affordable housing as a component of the up-zoning was unrealistic and never happened. “Today, hundreds and hundreds of market-rate units line Fourth Avenue,” said Council Member Lander, who continued by describing how these new market-rate buildings will have not one “low-income or moderate-income family who can attend the good public schools nearby and enjoy the benefits of living in a mixed-income, diverse, inclusive community.”

Not all of the Council Members were satisfied with the modified proposals as they exist today.

Council Members Joe Borelli and Steven Matteo, two of the three Council Members representing Staten Island, voted against both of the proposals. Council Member Matteo criticized the programs for their failure to take into consideration the unique nature of Staten Island, and voiced his opinion that the City should instead follow a “community-based approach with local input to protect the borough’s character.”

Council Member Rosie Mendez felt that “some of the voluntary inclusionary zones could have been made mandatory.” She expressed her dissatisfaction with height increases in non-contextual zones and with the plan’s treatment of contextual zones that had been fought for in the last 10 years that would not be kept whole. Council Member Mendez voted in favor of MIH due to the importance of mandating inclusionary housing, but abstained from voting on ZQA.

At a pre-Stated press conference, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito commented on the historic nature of the MIH and ZQA proposals as being “the strongest in the nation.” “Our plan is one that will work for the New Yorkers it is meant to serve, ensuring that our review of these proposals addresses the very real concerns that we heard from residents, advocacy groups, community boards, and everyone in-between,” said Speaker Mark-Viverito. She stated:

After months of engagement in all five boroughs and across the City, the Council now has a landmark plan that will provide new and deeper affordability in Mandatory Inclusionary Housing for more New Yorkers, close loopholes in MIH and ensure better public review, support economic integration, minimize displacement, protect the character of neighborhoods, support local hiring and community development, focus Zoning for Quality and Affordability on the development of affordable housing and senior affordable housing, and modulate parking changes in neighborhoods with the poorest transit access.

Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises Chair Donovan Richards Jr. stated that with these proposals, the City is “holding developers responsible for contributing to the solution of our housing crisis rather than being the perpetrator of our housing crisis.”

Land Use Committee Chair David Greenfield thanked the public and advocacy groups endlessly for their tireless efforts in making sure their voices were heard. “I’m especially proud of the hearings that we held where every single person who showed up late in the night had their voice heard. The concerns that we had were met through the modifications that we made as a result of line by line changes that happened with our extra-ordinary Land Use staff.”

In a statement released by Mayor Bill de Blasio following the vote, the Mayor said, “This landmark legislation is the product of tireless efforts by Speaker Mark-Viverito, the City Council, the Borough Presidents and the Community Boards to protect the integrity of our neighborhoods. Years from now, when working-class families and seniors are living soundly in their homes without fear of being priced out, we will look back on this as a pivotal moment when we turned the tide to keep our city a place for ALL New Yorkers.”  The Mayor is expected to sign into law the text amendments approved by the Council, but no signing date has yet to be confirmed.

City Council: LU 0334-2016, LU 0335-2016 (March 22, 2016).

By: Jessica Soultanian-Braunstein (Jessica is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2015)

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