Gentrification refers to the process by which low-income residents are displaced from their neighborhoods by an influx of wealthier – typically whiter – residents. In turn, the cost of living in gentrifying neighborhoods escalates, with exorbitant increases in housing costs in particular, displacing low-income residents from neighborhoods in which many of these families have lived for generations. Essentially, low-income residents become priced out of their communities due to rising rents from landlords who begin to charge market rent to maximize profit. In order to combat the issue of housing affordability for low-income residents, New York City has put several policies in place to help reign in the impacts of gentrification. One of the most important of these policies is Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning.
Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning is a key initiative in the de Blasio Administration’s housing plan which requires developers to make a certain share of new housing units to be permanently affordable. In exchange, the city provides developers with subsidies, which allow them to build taller buildings. The Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning policy was developed in part by the Department of City planning and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
Under the Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning policy, the New York City Planning Commission will apply one or both of the following requirements:
- 25 percent of housing units must be permanently affordable for residents with income that are approximately sixty percent of the area’s median income. In many neighborhoods in New York City, for example, this would apply to an annual income averaging around $47,000 for a family of three.
- 30 percent of housing units must be permanently affordable for residents with income that are approximately eighty percent of the area’s median income. In New York City, this amounts to an annual income of $62,000 for a family of three.
Mandatory inclusionary zoning is designed to help low-income residents meet their affordable housing needs. By legally requiring developers to cap the cost of occupancy for a certain share of housing units, more affordable housing units will be made available to lower income New Yorkers without burdening taxpayers’ dollars.
One of the benefits to this policy is its capacity to facilitate socioeconomic diversity within neighborhoods that might otherwise become gentrified enclaves in which only the wealthy can afford to live. Generally affordable housing units are concentrated, but this policy allows for an integration of both low and moderate income residents. Lower income individuals and families, in turn are given access to better public infrastructure, better schools, and overall a higher quality of living. Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning is a step in the correct direction to address to the affordable housing crisis in New York City, as it both preserves and also increases the number of affordable housing units. Although this policy addresses the impacts of gentrification, it is not enough. More needs to be done to help low-resident incomes meet their affordable housing needs.