De Blasio's Building Challenge
The key to creating more opportunity for all is producing far more housing at all levels
Mayor de Blasio's State of the City speech may have run a bit long, but in some respects Hizzoner has tightened up his messaging. "People . . . are afraid they will not be able to afford the very place that they have given so much to," he said, as he promised to preside over the creation of good-paying jobs and abundant, affordable housing.
The mayor's new rhetorical pivot from inequality to inclusive growth — more housing, more jobs for everyone — is welcome, even if many of his tax-and-spend proposals aren't the best way to advance that growth.
The most promising tool in his toolbelt to grow the city's economy and make it more inclusive is his rezoning effort to reduce housing scarcity — and the blunt reality is, de Blasio hasn’t wielded that tool effectively.
In a December report, I found that statistical measures of inequality had risen under the "Tale of Two Cities" mayor, but argued it was silly to worry about statistical inequality as a local phenomenon. Each of New York's two cities — our roles as an international financial hub and as a global magnet for immigrants from developing countries — are enduring strengths.
If Wall Street and our high-income tax base leave, or if the international poor stop coming, it could only mean something terrible has happened to New York's opportunity engine. It would mean we've either taxed away our tax base or entirely priced out the working class with tight zoning, a la San Francisco.
Unfortunately, de Blasio has not managed to successfully guide the City Council and local stakeholders through his housing supply efforts so far. He's tossed around a lot of subsidies for preserving below-market units, but subsidized housing doesn't mean accessible housing — the deeper the subsidy, the longer the application line.
The only way to have both affordable and accessible housing is to permit a lot more housing of all kinds, to grow the pie.
True, the East New York rezoning went through, but everywhere else seems to be bogging down. Major rezonings in the Bronx and East Harlem — which would permit thousands of new units of all kinds for all incomes, fund new schools, create local retail jobs and grow the tax base — are at risk of stalling out.
One of the most symbolically frustrating defeats came in Inwood, where local NIMBYs defeated an application to build 355 apartments, half of which....
This piece originally appeared in New York Daily News