“Affordable Housing” can be a confusing term, especially lately as it’s more prevalent in the news than ever. And with Affordable Housing comes lots of other terms—rezoning, 421a, LIHTC and SLIHC tax credits, AMI, subsidy, rent regulation, MWBE, etc.—so many words and phrases to know, and that’s not all. After learning the terms you have to go the next step and learn how these words and phrases connect with each other and in what order, conceptually and when applied to your neighborhood.
I get many calls and emails asking if I know what many of these terms mean, so I thought that sharing some of these questions and answers with you would help a lot, especially to those of you in the midst of a rezoning initiative or that are trying to understand the mechanics of a local affordable development being considered. I’ll post a short weekly column on Bk Reader with terminology presented in layperson’s words and with online references in case you wish to delve deeper. I’ll start from the basics covering the different terms, as well as how they fit together, and in what order. To further bolster understanding of terms I’ll also provide the occasional quote, interview, or project reference from affordable housing providers, policy makers, elected officials, tenant advocates, lenders, and more.
A little about me: I work in several subsets of the affordable housing industry, providing supportive services to developers, contractors, and property managers. My firm, BTN Consulting Services, provides government compliance (MWBE, ICAP, Section 3, and others), comprehensive local hiring plans, and an array of tenant advocacy related services to property managers. My experience spans many years in affordable housing across the private, public, and nonprofit sectors.
Columns will focus on affordable housing specific to New York City and New York State. I’ll include federal programs and policies, but only insofar as they relate to New York City and State. The columns will be written much like an FAQ (frequently asked questions), using the following format:
- Define a term or policy
- Give a real-world example of it, where applicable
- Occasionally get a quote on the topic from a policy maker or industry professional
- Provide links for further reading
It’s important to state not only what this column will be, but also what it won’t. It will not be an editorial column. I’ll stay away from sharing my own opinions on policy or projects, but may, for the sake of definition, include other persons’ differing viewpoints on a particular policy, and provide links for further reading of those differing viewpoints. I want to keep with the overall goal of providing an easy to understand glossary of terms, so please keep that in mind if you post a question to me in the comments section. That said, a robust, respectful debate of opinions between readers, posted in the comments section, is a good thing on any subject matter, not just affordable housing.
In the next few weeks you can look forward to columns that define terms like AMI, subsidy (there are many types of subsidy and it’s not always in the form of money), rent regulation, inclusionary zoning, and more. If there’s a specific affordable housing policy or term in the news, use the comments section to suggest it as a future column. I’ll try to adjust the column schedule to accommodate emerging trends and news.
Everything above will begin with my first column, titled “What exactly is Affordable Housing and how is it created?” It’ll explain, in straightforward layperson’s terms, the basic mechanics behind creating a typical affordable housing development. That upcoming column will serve as the building block for future columns.
Thanks for reading!