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April 22, 2019

Councilman proposes requiring discounted retail rent for ground floors of affordable housing developments

February 13, 2019
Council Member Rafael Espinal. (David Handschuh / New York Daily News)

The city’s affordable housing developments ought to be affordable for everyone — including retail shops, a city councilman says.

Councilman Rafael Espinal, who is also running for public advocate, will introduce legislation Wednesday to require affordable commercial space on the ground-floor of certain affordable housing developments receiving city subsidies, he told the Daily News.

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“We’re trying to do everything we can to preserve and support our small businesses, and I think this is one step in doing that,” Espinal said.

It’s a citywide version of a pilot that Espinal had included in the city’s rezoning of East New York, which is within his district.

The requirement would apply to any subsidized affordable housing development with at least 10,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor. It would require whatever city agency or economic development incorporation is overseeing the development to conduct a neighborhood retail needs assessment determine how much of the retail space should be set aside and what the below-market lease rate would be. Developers would not be able to fill the allotted space with chain stores.

The legislation tasks the Department of Small Business Services with enforcing the rules, and with collecting penalties if they’re broken — including barring the developer from getting city financial assistance.

“The fruits of our labor three years ago are actually coming to fruition and I think this is the next step the city can take to improve the diversity of our small businesses and make sure that we protect the integrity and character of our communities,” Espinal said.

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