Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Mathew M. Wambua, Commissioner of Housing Preservation and Development, talks about the latest from the office of affordable housing, including the City's micro-units project, new investments, an online lottery, and more.


Mathew M. Wambua

Comments [26]

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Oct. 14 2012 11:17 AM
Yvonne from Park Slope, Brooklyn

The problem with "affordable housing" is that it often means either low income or some lottery competing with tons of folks equally desperate to stay in the city; if your income is neither low nor high, you have extremely limited options. I have been in Park Slope since 1976 and would like to move within the neighborhood but can not afford to and feel trapped in a building that is falling apart. A micro unit??? Though building in the storage space that might make it work would make it even smaller, I would consider it if it was really affordable AND LIVABLE!!

I agree with the comment:"So now hard working middle class people in NYC can't even afford a studio appartment. This is a clear sign of gross failure of the city's housing policy ..."

The problem is that we all allow it and try to cope within it!!!

Aug. 03 2012 01:23 PM
Gadea from 344 East 28th Street

344 East 28th Street NY NY 10016, used to be a state owned building,
administered by NYCHA. Now, I think, Citibank bought it.
It is in the rear of this building, in the parking lot,
that the building with apartments, the size of subway cars is being built.
The NYCHA workers tell the tenants of 344 E. 28th St., "you're are all
on your way out of here".
The NYCHA workers also say that each time they empty out an apartment,
the NYCHA employees in management cheer them on.
Margarita Lopez, has been to 344 many times, as a representative of NYCHA.
She basically has said to get out.

It seems that the re-election of
Mayor Bloomberg has really spelled
doom for a lot of working class New Yorkers.
For ordinary New Yorkers, that are not rich, Bloomberg has meant diaster.
He really has a war on against the people that reside in NYCHA.

Aug. 02 2012 02:12 PM
Tax Scam behind micro-units project ? from Sq. Ft vs Number of Units...

HOW might developers gain from promoting micro-units ?

They may wish to get the generous tax breaks from the city
for building a certain amount of "affordable housing" - ex :
20 % of the **UNITS** in a development.

Clearly, if they can build ***UNITS*** that are even SMALLER
than studios, they can meet the 20 % of ***UNITS*** requirement
of the tax break with an even MORE trivial percentage of their
buildings' SQUARE FOOTAGE!

This will allow the developers to make EVEN MORE money
selling the REST of the Square FOOTAGE as expensive larger
appartments while MINIMIZING their cost of gaining the tax advantage.

Eg. If I could create 200 closets and call them "affordable housing
units", I can take the rest of the space in my development (perhaps
even in OTHER BUILDINGS) and build up to 800 LARGE LUXURY UNITS
TAX FREE (or even with TAX CREDITS!)!

The closets would represent a TRIVIAL amount of my total square
footage - maybe less than 5 %.

After all FIVE microunits of 300 sq ft each could fit in each
1500 sq ft larger appartment. Yet, it would also allow tax breaks
for TWENTY of these large luxury units. So 1500 sq ft of "Micro Units"
will support the tax breaks on 30,000 sq ft of Luxury appartments.

So is THIS the real reason behind the Micro-units project ?

Aug. 02 2012 01:34 PM
Best Practice Transfer: University Dorms &EHostels from Interest/Industry Based Social Incubators

Who builds and RUNS the most effective microunits ?
Probably universities - Eg. Dorms.
The city should FORMALLY study their successes for
best practice transfer.


The smaller the space the more relevant one's neighbors are.
Allow people to SELF SELECT by INTEREST - ex : BY INDUSTRY.
People in the software/internet/ecommerce/IT/Startup industries
could SELF SELECT into the same Floor or building.
Similarly healthcare, finance, arts and entertainment, biotech, etc

This makes these small units social INCUBATORS for increased
networking and idea exchange. People may be reticent to live
in such close proximity to completely unrelated strangers,
but may welcome the VIBRANCY that's created when people can
SELF SELECT by interests and professional fields.

The social structure is probably even more important than
the physical plant and physical design decisions.

Currently, Real estate norms sort people by MONEY - it is far
better to allow people to SELF SORT by SHARED INTERESTS.

Another point :

Small dorms/appts make SHARED PUBLIC SPACES (and their maintenance)
even MORE important - eg. each bldg should have a QUIET STUDY
AREA 24/7, and social lounges(ideally a large one for the bldg and
one on each floor), shared large kichens can also be a useful
supplement, shared exercise spaces would be nice (but are probably
too expensive), lockable off site or basement storage for every appt
would also be very helpful for most people.

Aug. 02 2012 01:21 PM
Middle class DORMS and SROs from Free Market increase building heights

So now hard working middle class people in NYC can't even
afford a studio appartment. This is a clear sign of gross
failure of the city's housing policy and the wasteful
crony-capitalism in NYC that PRETENDS to be a "free market".

How about a more free market approach of eliminating restrictions
on building heights. Instead, put a tax on the increased
units (and increased land values). The tax should be progressive -
eg. a higher rate for more expensive units.

Use the proceeds to build the infrastructure needed to support
the extra population density - including probably multilevel/partially indoor sidewalks/malls (see Toronto), elevated sidewalks (see HiLine)
and indoor multiblock elevated walkways (see Battery park city)
increased INDOOR AND outdoor FREE 24/7 public spaces, increased public transport, housing and park construction OVER the East river (creating a major "land bridge"/ park over the river to allow pleasant walking/living and shopping elevated zone/park between the East Side and LIC/R.Island/Queens), a "Solids Waste disposal" subway system,

Where is the creativity and sense of adventure that used to exist in NYC ?

Aug. 02 2012 01:08 PM
Leo from Queens

Jan, you are correct about Mr. Bloomberg and this proposal to build shoe boxes as real homes. They are out of touch and part of it is that Bloomberg assumes that you at least have 2 other homes outside the City where you would spend your weekends. And most of the City commissioners and those driving this policy in the mayor's administration don't even live in NYC. These are people that fly in for the week (Monday afternoon to Thursday evening) to work for the City at the taxpayer's expense, and then fly home to their suburban homes somewhere else. They have no concept of what it is like to actually live in NYC. They have these high ranking positions in the administration not because they care about NYC or urban policy in general, they are flocking in to be attached to Bloomberg and his money because it will help them advance their political careers or at least land a cushy 'policy' position in one of the Bloomberg funded organizations.

Aug. 02 2012 11:11 AM

I think the idea of a micro-unit building is great, but should be tried in a more affordable area. Home ownership would be attainable for people with moderate incomes.

Aug. 02 2012 10:41 AM
Barbara from Greenwich Village

One of the best comments about the Mayor's cynical solution to addressing the affordable housing crisis is here Fran Lebowitz's critique given in her talk at the NYUFAS book launch:

That is there is a reason for the existing regulations governing the size of apartments for people living in New York City that exist for a reason.

Aug. 02 2012 10:40 AM
Jan from Manhattan

Although I have not studied closely the models that have been presented, those I have seen appear to be unrealistic. They may look neat as models, but the only way they can work for people would be if tenants have absolutely no belongings or food or clothing that require storage. The daily mail would alone put a strain on the most minimalist housekeeper. It seems that Mayor Bloomberg and his planners are very much out of touch with the reality of living in NYC (or anywhere) as a non-billionaire without a mansion and several other homes.

Aug. 02 2012 10:39 AM

I'm surprised at all the fuss about these micro units. My architectural firm, along with several others, has been designing "micro units" for years -- they are called "Supportive Housing", and are developed under Use Group 3 in the zoning resolution and are funded largely through HPD.
However, it is very difficult to design a 300 SF unit and comply with all of the myriad, complex and contradictory handicapped requirements. Is the mayor prepared to take on the ADA, FHA and the city's own LL 58 requirements. Moreover, we have found that a unit under 300 SF is very difficult for most people to live in. 340 to 350 SF min. seems more sufficient.

Aug. 02 2012 10:39 AM
Nick from UWS

Brian, why don't you get a little aggressive, take a tip from British interviewers, and MAKE HIM COMMENT DIRECTLY.

Aug. 02 2012 10:39 AM

How is this not just Dorms for grown-ups?

Aug. 02 2012 10:38 AM
Jill Rapaport (Jill) from Chelsea

How funny that Wambua accuses Brian Lehrer of being "so cynical." The Bloomberg plan is what is cynical. It also won't help anybody except developers, up-and-coming politicos, and rich young twits whose parents can pay the freight while they breeze through NYC, mess it up more than it already is, and breeze out again to condos elsewhere.

Aug. 02 2012 10:37 AM

It's all about Density. yuck! This guy is another part of making NYC a hateful place to live. Literally packing us in like sardines. This idea is awful.

Aug. 02 2012 10:35 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Why doesn't HPD work harder to turn "abandoned" / boarded up, 6+ unit buildings, I see all through my neighborhood?

Aug. 02 2012 10:35 AM
Nick from UWS

I wonder how this guy feels being a shill for the real estate industry?

Aug. 02 2012 10:35 AM
Nick from UWS

As if the Housing Preservation And Development commission has never given anybody any reason to be cynical. Give me a break.

Aug. 02 2012 10:34 AM
Robert from NYC

Ask him what affordable is? How much and for what?

Aug. 02 2012 10:34 AM
Leo from Queens

I just want to say that the HPD (which was run by current Housing secretary Donovan) is probably one of 2 city agencies that is doing a fairly good job and tries to communicate with property owners. It is the only agency that doesn't treat property owners and taxpayers as common criminals to extort.

Having said that, can the commissioner address the fact that the Buildings Dept has been working against the HPD goal by actually promoting a wholesale damage of the existing housing stock by giving a card blanche to developers, contractors and speculators doing new construction to damage existing properties. And in some cases structurally damaging the existing housing stock.. Do they have a number of how many properties/housing units have been damaged/deteriorated by the Building departments Hands off policy which allows builders to do what they want without regard to private property rights and life. Remember. DOB has been responsible for hundreds of killings of innocent people during the past 10 years of the building boom.

Aug. 02 2012 10:34 AM
Rita from NYC

Middle-class SROs?

Aug. 02 2012 10:33 AM
Robert from NYC

Yeah, this is ridiculous to make apartments even smaller than many are now. We don't need micro units. And what these people call affordable are not really affordable to most low income people and many of us are low income. Salaries have not kept up with inflation over the past 2 or 3 decades and that's a fact that has been brought out lately and when one's take home salary is $400-$600/week, with all other expenses, $1200 monthy rent is out of reach.

Aug. 02 2012 10:32 AM
Janet from Manhattan

So the Mayor's solution to the housing crisis is to turn NYC into an SRO zone, except for the very wealthy?

Aug. 02 2012 10:32 AM
Scott from Lower Manhattan

Why not upzone large parts of the city so as to expand the total square footage of housing so that more units can be provided without shrinking units to the minimum needed for existence?

Aug. 02 2012 10:31 AM
Rita from Nyc

Middle class SROs?

Aug. 02 2012 10:31 AM

"27th Street and 1st Avenue on the Lower East Side" - I can't believe this man just said that 27th St. is the LES. No way! He's lost me already. ugh!

Aug. 02 2012 10:30 AM

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