5. Apply Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning
Preserving and Creating Affordable Housing > Recommendations
Affordable housing must be required for any new developments (new construction or conversions) that would be allowed through changes in Gowanus zoning that permit residential development. The de Blasio Administration is currently developing plans for “mandatory inclusionary zoning” that build such requirements into the zoning itself. This zoning tool was applied in New York City for the first time at the Astoria Cove site in Queens, where 25% of the units were required to be affordable (with an additional 2% through City subsidies). The City’s new mandatory inclusionary zoning provisions should be required in any areas of Gowanus that are rezoned to allow residential development.
Under such a plan, where new market-rate housing is allowed in areas currently zoned for manufacturing, and/or where there is an increase in allowable density, developers would be required to include a minimum percentage affordable units, with additional units and/or more deeply affordable units required when developers access public financing.
One important element of mandatory inclusionary zoning is changing the current practice of wholesale “double dipping” – where developers are allowed to receive both a voluntary “density bonus” (i.e., the right to build additional market-rate units) and a 25-year tax exemption (under Section 421-a of the Real Property Finance Law) for the same 20% affordable units. Astoria Cove required a greater percentage of affordable units for the first time, to 25%, in order to receive these benefits. With market-rate values even higher in Gowanus, and with the extensive potential value increases identified in the City Council Land Use Division’s analysis, a higher rate should be achieved in Gowanus.