One option could be the project-based Section 8, a federal renewable grant that typically goes to those earning less than 50 percent of the median income of the area, although that would likely only apply to some tenants. Another approach could include tax-exempt bonds, including 501 (c) (3) bonds, a seldom-used funding instrument, Ms. Lamberg said, or a new allotment of so-called liberty bonds, similar to the billions that are mainly spent on commercial development around the World Trade Center. Or there could be a program to siphon off excess land lease income in nearby Battery Park City. Some of these proposals could use public funding that other affordable housing projects would not, she said.
There could also be opportunities to reduce the cost of the project through redesign, said Todd Fine, a coalition member, although some financial details, including the level of payments to the port authority, were not disclosed.
However, some of these proposals depend on solid federal housing investment staying in the final build of the Build Back Better plan now set in Congress.
There is value in building affordable housing in high-rent neighborhoods, said Jolie A. Milstein, executive director and president of the New York State Association for Affordable Housing. However, given the construction costs and the complicated negotiations involved, she said the limited resources could not be used optimally if additional affordable units were subsidized.
Still, the drive for more affordable housing in the tower has found support from a number of elected officials, including councilors Ben Kallos and Mark Levine; New York State Senator Brian P. Kavanagh; US Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney and Jerrold Nadler; and assembly woman Yuh-Line Niou.
The most important endorsement, however, comes from Kathy Hochul, the new governor of New York, who has a broad influence on the government agencies who own the site. Hazel Crampton-Hays, the governor’s press secretary, said in a statement: “Governor Hochul is determined to continue taking bold action to protect tenants and help resolve the housing affordability crisis – not just in a neighborhood or building, but inside whole state, and we are watching the development of this project in this context. “
Either way, the approval process will probably take at least another year, also because the site was originally intended for a commercial high-rise and residential use requires a change to the general project plan for Lower Manhattan drawn up after the attacks. There’s also the possibility that a protracted dispute over the tower could lead the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to revert to a commercial plan that doesn’t require additional permits.
But Ms. James of the Coalition for a 100% Affordable 5WTC is not being put off.
“I leave my apartment and look at empty buildings every day,” she said, noting the flood of commercial and luxury residential properties that surrounded her. “We can fill a building if it is affordable.”
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