Residency requirements fuel Hunters Point South debate

September 17, 2008 at 4:23 pm Leave a comment

The ongoing debate over residency requirements for city workers is just one piece of a much bigger problem.

The sad fact remains that places for middle-class families to live in the five boroughs are few and far between.

Rent-stabilized apartments are disappearing. Condominiums and single-family homes are wildly overpriced – even in this declining market.

And it seems that every new building going in every neighborhood is being touted as “luxury housing.”

Tucked into some of these new construction projects are pieces of affordable housing. Most of these affordable housing initiatives are targeted to lower-income families and not available to middle-income city workers.

But one effort to bring middle-class housing to Queens is being challenged by advocates who say the income levels are too high.

Hunters Point South in Long Island City is designed to be a place where police officers, firefighters, schoolteachers, nurses, transit workers, social workers and other civil servants can afford to live.

The Bloomberg administration has promised that 60% of the 5,000 units will be set aside for middle-income households.

There is a dizzying range of incomes and complicated formulas, but in general, that means a family of four making $55,000 to $158,000 a year would qualify for a three-bedroom apartment.

There are lower thresholds for smaller units.

For example, entry-level police officers and firefighters would qualify for studio apartments.

Some community groups have complained those salaries are too high and don’t reflect the median income of Queens residents.

They are aggressively lobbying the city to decrease the number of units for middle-income families and increase the number for families making a combined income of less than $61,000 a year.

Everyone in this city is entitled to decent, affordable housing.

But there are few efforts that would actually provide housing for middle-income city workers.

Years ago there was Mitchell-Lama – the housing program that offered tax abatements and low-interest mortgages to developers who created housing for middle- and moderate-income families.

Affordable rents and mortgages were locked in for a set period of time. Many of those units were lost when owners and tenants had the chance to opt out of the program and make more money.

One complaint about Hunters Point South is that the income limits are too high.

Anyone who thinks a family of four making between $55,000 and $158,000 isn’t middle-income is dead wrong.

I don’t think any couple that makes about $60,000 each (before taxes, health benefits and other deductions) would consider themselves anything but middle-income.

They certainly aren’t wealthy, and can’t afford to live in many of the new luxury buildings opening in that neighborhood. For example, one Long Island City building features studio apartments for about $2,200 a month.

The City Planning Commission, which held a hearing on the project last month, is set to vote on Hunters Point South next Wednesday.

For years, city workers have moved outside the city to find affordable housing. Maybe if they build some within the city limits, they will stay.

Daily News

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Entry filed under: Go Coastal, Public Waterfront, Queens.

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