NYC mayor focuses on affordable housing in State of the City speech

De Blasio said his plan he outlined Tuesday, focusing on affordable housing, would be a big step toward fulfilling his campaign promise to narrow the divide between New York City's rich and poor.

Mike Segar/Reuters
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio delivers his State of the City address at Baruch College in the Manhattan borough of New York City, February 3, 2015. Mayor Bill de Blasio plans to make it compulsory for developers to include cheaper, affordable apartments if they build in newly rezoned parts of the city, he said in his second annual State of the City speech on Tuesday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio used his annual State of the City speech Tuesday to outline an ambitious plan to build hundreds of thousands of new affordable housing units in New York City.

De Blasio said his plan, which would include building 160,000 market-rate apartments and building or preserving 200,000 affordable housing units, would be a big step toward fulfilling his campaign promise to narrow the divide between New York City's rich and poor — what he called the "tale of two cities."

"If we do not act — and act boldly —New York risks taking on the qualities of a gated community," de Blasio said. "A place defined by exclusivity, rather than opportunity. And we cannot let that happen."

De Blasio hopes to achieve his goal to build denser, economically diverse, affordable residential communities through rules that would require developers to include affordable housing "not as an option — as a pre-condition" in every major rezoning development.

His plan calls for transforming whole neighborhoods from Staten Island to Brooklyn, creating a citywide ferry service to make some outlying neighborhoods more attractive to development. He also called for more affordable housing for artists and for programs that would protect New Yorkers facing displacement from rising rents and harassment.

De Blasio has billed the program "the biggest affordable housing plan anyone's tried anywhere at any time at the local level in the history of the republic." Last year, the city saved and preserved more than 17,300 affordable units, enough to house nearly 42,000 people.

Housing costs are exorbitant in much of the city, and for most New Yorkers, their monthly housing payment is their largest expense.

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