Capital New York:
New York City plans to significantly scale back regulatory requirements imposed on some affordable housing developers, all but eliminating a cumbersome design and architecture review that can take months to complete and add significant costs to buildings, a top city official said on Wednesday.
While its staff will still conduct a short review, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development will largely rely on a system of self-certifications and random audits to ensure projects under its inclusionary housing program meet city standards, Vicki Been, the agency’s commissioner, said at an event held by the Citizens Budget Commission. Those standards, she said, will also be less burdensome.
Been described the changes as “a completely new approach” and said it would replace “what has often been a long, iterative and, frankly, painful process.” The details will be announced soon, she said.
Reducing the requirements alone would be significant and could be seen as a prerequisite to a self-certification process, some experts said.
“It makes the architects' lives harder, because some of these rules are really challenging and I think sometimes they almost like having somebody else review them because they miss things,” Carol E. Rosenthal, a partner at law firm Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson, said after Been’s remarks.
The revisions are part of much broader changes that are happening at H.P.D. as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration embarks on its massive affordable housing effort; the mayor has promised build and preserve 200,000 units of low-cost housing over the next decade.
So expect affordable housing to start looking like the cheapest schlock imaginable — probably not even as good as the dreck that usually gets built in Williamsburg, probably more like cement-block Fedders buildings.
Also, we’ve seen a lot of abuses of the self-certification process for much smaller scale, private developments. If they are flagrant enough, they are eventually punished (architect Robert Scarano and the overbuilt monstrosity at 1882 East 12th Street in Homecrest by architect Shlomo Wygoda are two examples), but we suspect that’s just the tip of the iceberg. So we’re skeptical this is a good approach to take with affordable housing, where the pressure to cut costs is likely to be even greater and the beneficiaries less able to defend their interests.
We think it’s going to be a great loss for these neighborhoods, not to mention the residents.