Capital New York:
The 421-a program will sunset this June if the state Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo do not act to renew it. Around the same time, the state’s rent control law will also expire. For Mayor Bill de Blasio, a liberal who rose to power with the support of some of the people who want the program gone, the timing puts him in a real political pickle.
De Blasio’s ambitious housing agenda puts him on both sides of tenant advocates and on both sides of Big Real Estate, too. On one hand, he is calling for a strong rent control law—something tenant groups have cheered and the real estate industry bemoaned. On the other hand, his ambitious plan to build 80,000 affordable units, preserve 120,000 affordable units, and foster the development of 160,000 market-rate units depends on the cooperation of the real estate industry. His agenda is, in many ways, in developers' hands. And they aren't inclined to see 421-a go anywhere.
Meanwhile, revisions to the 421-a program that have required the building of 20 percent as affordable units have not put enough of a dent in the housing crisis to justify the program, tenant groups believe, which means there is little middle ground for the mayor to stake out.
And the conflicts do not end there for the mayor: His fellow Democrats in the state Assembly, still stinging from the arrest of long-time Speaker Sheldon Silver, are likely to use the tax credits as leverage in their effort to strengthen the rent laws. The freshly minted Republican majority in the Senate, also trying to navigate the new order of things in Albany, are likely to use rent laws as leverage to get subsidies.
To get a sense of how important this thing is for the mayor, consider how he describes his overall initiative: “The largest affordable housing program that any city, any state has attempted in a ten-year time span in the history of the republic.”