Changes increase projected affordable units from 711 to 1,436 with more family-sized units and deeper affordability, dedicate units for formerly homeless, and convert market rate units to be set-aside for CityFHEPS voucher holders
City Hall, NY – As New York City faces a severe affordable housing crisis, the City Council Committee on Land Use voted to approve a private land use application in Queens that provides an unprecedented level of affordable housing and public benefits for the local neighborhood and of any such application in New York City. The Council successfully negotiated commitments from the development team and administration to more than double the number of affordable housing units for Innovation QNS, which will now have a projected 1,436 (45%) out of 3,190 total units. This includes 825 units for extremely or very low-income households or those exiting the shelter system. The mixed-use housing development in Astoria to replace parking lots, underutilized industrial and commercial buildings, and vacant spaces was initially certified by the City Planning Commission to include 711 affordable units (25%) of the proposed 2,843 units in the project through the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) program. The updated project includes significant changes that deliver major housing and community benefits for residents of the area. It increases the number of deeply affordable housing at an unprecedented scale in the neighborhood, dedicates affordable housing units for the formerly unhoused, increases the number of affordable family-sized units, sets aside units that were previously market rate for extremely low-income people with CityFHEPS rental vouchers, and secures community benefits that include a $2 million commitment towards legal services to protect neighboring tenants from housing displacement, discrimination and harassment.
“New Yorkers urgently need affordable housing now, and we know that deep affordability and solutions to homelessness are key to addressing the interconnected crises facing our city,” said Speaker Adrienne Adams. “The newly revised project negotiated by Council Member Won and approved by our Land Use Committee is an unprecedented step to expand affordability and community benefits that help a neighborhood and city that is currently only experiencing increased housing costs and pressures. This doubles the number of affordable units with real affordability at the deepest levels, provides homes for the formerly unhoused and low-income people with rental vouchers, and protects surrounding tenants by supporting free legal services. This project will make a meaningful contribution towards improving lives and addressing homelessness. I applaud Council Member Won for advancing affordable housing solutions and public benefits that will benefit her district and all New Yorkers.”
“From Day 1, I have stood with my community in demanding deeper affordability from this development–and because we held the line, the Innovation QNS project has doubled the number of affordable units than initially offered, from 711 to 1,436 affordable units,” said Council Member Julie Won. “In our negotiations, I never once compromised on the level of affordability at MIH Option 1 to Option 2 or 3, as these homes have to be accessible to the current residents of the neighborhood: immigrants, working class families, and our growing number of unhoused neighbors. As a result, we have secured a project that, with unprecedented private investment, will deliver 1,436 permanently affordable apartments, including 825 deeply affordable units for formerly homeless and extremely or very low income individuals and families, including 142 supportive housing units, and 157 CityFHEPS rental voucher units. I nearly doubled affordable family sized units (2-3 bedrooms) from 284 units to 554 units. In addition to this historic level of deeply affordable housing, I am proud to have negotiated other immense gains for our community, including a $2 million anti-harassment, anti-displacement fund to provide legal protections for local tenants, relocation assistance for current residents and businesses, multilingual application assistance for affordable housing, and much more. As a community, we have set a new standard for building affordable housing on private land, and I commend and thank each community member and elected official for remaining steadfast.
“To tackle our City’s affordable housing crisis systemically, we must implement comprehensive, city-wide planning which prioritizes the very New Yorkers we have excluded from these processes for far too long,” continued Council Member Won. “We as a Council, along with the Mayor and the Speaker, must make solving the affordable housing crisis our top priority and put real investment into repairing and preserving NYCHA, developing and operating more social housing, expanding community land trusts, and pushing the state to grow successful limited equity co-op programs such as the Mitchell-Lama Co-op. In district 26, we will always prioritize community needs over profit.”
The revised and approved project would provide the largest addition of deeply affordable housing to the area in decades, creating an estimated 825 units at or below 50% of Area Median Income (“Extremely or Very Low Income”) through a combination of MIH, HPD-sponsored development, and vouchers. 293 of the units will be reserved for households exiting the shelter system or at risk of homelessness through CityFHEPS or Section 8 vouchers, 365 will be targeted at households making 30% of AMI (incomes ranging from $28,020 for an individual to $40,020 for a family of four) and a further 167 for households making 31-50% of AMI. Since 2014, only 183 such deeply affordable units at or below 50 AMI have been created in Queens Community Board 1.
As part of this affordability, the approved project addresses an ongoing challenge that New Yorkers transitioning from homelessness into permanent housing have faced in being unable to secure apartments with rental housing vouchers. 157 of the project’s market rate units were converted to be set-aside for people with CityFHEPS vouchers, setting a positive example for landlords across the City and securing concrete housing units for extremely low-income people with the vouchers to access. The final agreement also increased the number of affordable family-sized units from 284 to 554.
As a result of an increase in affordable housing units included in the project, the parking space allotted in the development was reduced from the originally proposed 1,390 to approximately 900. Innovation Queens will also provide two acres of open space for the neighborhood, as well as community spaces for non-profit organizations, small businesses and startups. Additionally, the agreement on the approved project now includes a commitment of $2 million from the developer to fund free legal advocacy services for low-income tenants in the surrounding area to help protect against housing discrimination, displacement, and harassment.
“Building more affordable housing will help address our city’s urgent housing and homelessness crises,” said Council Member Rafael Salamanca, Chair of the Council’s Land Use Committee. “With the Land Use Committee’s approval of Innovation QNS, the Council has taken another step towards advancing a critical project that will deliver deeply affordable homes and community benefits for New Yorkers. I thank Council Member Won for securing many wins for her district and the entire city.”
“To address our city’s affordable housing and homelessness crises, it’s vital that we advance good projects that provide affordable homes for New Yorkers,” said Council Member Kevin Riley, Chair of the Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises. “The revised Innovation QNS project, negotiated by Council Member Won, delivers robust community benefits while expanding deep affordability for extremely low-income and unhoused New Yorkers. Now that this project has been approved by the Council’s Land Use Committee, I look forward to its passage in the full Council.”
The housing and homelessness crises facing the City are the result of a shortage of homes for New Yorkers, with demand far outpacing supply to increase housing costs, and challenges for people transitioning from homeless shelters to permanent housing. The most affordable housing units are the least available in New York City, with the vacancy rate for the lowest-income apartments equaling less than one percent, according to the City’s Housing and Vacancy Survey. The updated Innovation QNS proposal targets both issues with expanded and unprecedented commitments towards creating more deeply affordable housing and the acceptance of housing vouchers.