How a New York Highrise Shows The Way For Affordable Housing


As Australia grapples with a lack of affordable housing, a proposed development in New York illustrates an innovative way to alleviate the problem.

JDS Development Group has formed a partnership with two not-for-profit groups: Two Bridges Neighborhood Council (TBNC) and Settlement Housing Fund (SHF), to build a new 900 foot tall skyscraper at 247 Cherry Street in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

The 77 storey, 500,000 square foot, mixed-income tower will have 600 units, 150 of which will be permanently affordable and distributed evenly throughout the building. The project has been developed as a collaboration between SHoP Architects and JDS.

The companies believe that partnerships like this can be used in other parts of the city to help build more affordable housing and aid in not-for-profit group goals.

247 Cherry Street Courtyard[/caption]Built on a site adjacent to TBNC housing for seniors, the project will make improvements to the adjacent property including a new lobby, a connected community space on the first floor of the new tower, and access to a roof garden.

The project was able to be developed through the sale of $51 million worth of air rights owned by TBNC and SHF, allowing affordable housing to be built without public subsidy.

According to preliminary plans, the building will have a mixture of studios, one-bedroom and two-bedrooms unit, with affordable apartments interspersed throughout the building.

JDS head Michael Stern says the approach could be used to increase the supply of affordable housing in New York, which like many Australian cities has sky high rents that are pricing anyone without a huge salary out of the market.

“We see it as a model of responsible development moving forward,” Stern said. “Take an under-utilized affordable housing asset and get some value out of it.”

The air rights model may not be strictly transferable to Australia because air rights are little used here, but with Not-For-Profits including churches owning billions of dollars in land nationwide, as well as the government, there is ample scope to trade development rights for a smattering of affordable homes in the final project.

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