Sunday, March 22, 2015

The City, the Suburbs, and Affordable Housing


Capital New York put out a great article on 'expert' opinions on Mayor de Blasio's affordable housing plans.
"And so he's calling for the creation of 80,000 affordable units and 160,000 market-rate ones, or 24,000 units a year over ten years. He also hopes to preserve another 120,000 units of affordable housing."
But the article cites critics who say that his focus is too limited to the city proper.

"But (Christopher Jones, Vice President for Research at the Regional Plan Association) and others argue that by focusing so exclusively on the five boroughs, and failing to acknowledge the regional nature of housing and jobs, of the economy writ large, the city is short-shrifting its residents, some of whom might be more than willing to move to some nice, transit-oriented development in the burbs, were the cost differential persuasive."
There is, of course, some push back from the 'burbs'.
"'You can't just ask localities in the region to bear the brunt of an overflow housing demand in New York City,' said Jerilyn Perine, executive director of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council. 'It has to be part of a strategy that's going to help them solve some of their problems as well.'"
The article ends without any concrete plans from these critics on how to help the suburbs help the city, apart from a obscure reference to 1898 when the four counties surrounding the island of Manhattan merged to become today's five boroughs of the "City of Greater New York". Now, suggesting that the city should further annex/incorporate the remaining counties is an idealistic idea, but frankly untenable, especially when you consider their prevailing NIMBY attitudes and deep-seated, old-school disdain for the city and urban life in general. Plus, in those surrounding municipalities you have local bureaucrats and plutocrats who have no intention of losing their positions and influence in their local municipalities. Why keep all those local town police and fire commissioners when NYC already has one?

To that end, I would argue that it's time to get rid of all the LIRR, Metro-North, PATH, NJ Transit, and regional bus ticket/fare prices and run everything on NYC subway/bus fare, complete with free transfers between NYC and regional transit. Basically all flat-fare/unlimited rides and free transfers for everything between Poughkeepsie, New Haven, Montauk, and Trenton. That should pretty much do everything recommended above. It would not only make the surrounding region an affordable alternative to the city, but also decrease car-dependency and increase transit ridership, while spurring both the revival of old, pre-war, railroad suburbs like Yonkers and spur the construction of new transit-oriented developments. Those local town leaders could not deny the overwhelming appeal this would have to their suburban residents and this tactic would therefore stand a better chance of coming to fruition.

The de Blasio administration's plans to create more affordable housing and increase density should still be pursued, but they are not an end to itself. Especially in light of all the opposition and hardships they cause.

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