Mayor Adams. His Vision. His (RE) Plan.
Published by Jordan Girard on July 12th, 2021
Vegan and enigmatic mayoral candidate Eric Adams has been leading the polls since June 2021 and is described by the media as the next mayor of New York City. The political veteran who served in the NY Transit Police and NY Police District for 22 years is among the most experienced political candidates running for #nycmayor. He has also been a top fundraiser. To date, his campaign raised $8.6 million. Since Adams is the frontrunner of this race, we did some research to learn more about his real estate plan. Eric Adams's housing platform is rooted in three main ideas:
- Building both affordable and non-regulated housing.
- Creating efficiencies across the chain from developments to government entities.
- Addressing the lack of technology (finally!) to solve the city's problems efficiently and accurately.
The Challenge of Quantifying Eric Adams's Housing Plan
In our latest article on Andrew Yang's real estate plan, we assessed that Yang's 2022 plan would cost upward of $10 billion to build 250,000 new affordable housing units annually. Adams's plan, however, falls short of quantifiable objectives. It is a set of guiding principles rather than a thoroughly thought-through strategy. Adams's "Eric Adams's 100 + steps forward for NYC" is a short forty-page document that only contains eight financial figures covering all major proposals. The document is divided into five main topics: (1) a smarter city, (2) a safer city, (3) a fairer city, (4) an educated city, and (5) a city of the future.
Building Affordable and Non-Regulated Units
While Andrew Yang's housing plan is mostly focused on the $4 billion annual funding to build 250,000 affordable housing units every year for ten years, Eric Adams's housing plan more broadly focuses on construction. Adams's objectives it to add supply to the housing stock and limit the densification of the urban fabric across the city. Adams's proposal includes building micro-units, simplifying the rental of single-family residential properties (SFR) such as granny flats and SROs, and foster public-private partnerships that will drive the construction of affordable housing with private developers. Like Yang, Adams is focused on deep affordability, although his plan includes no figures regarding the target AMI – Andrew Yang's target is families under 40% AMI.
To drastically reduce the urban density, Adams wants to strengthen intra-borough transit options. This would happen simultaneously to re-zoning, an area that Adams has been an expert on since he played a prominent—though only advisory—role in the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure that the city uses to shape and enact changes to zoning and other policies.
Creating Efficiencies Across the Spectrum
Adams's operational objective is simple: optimal efficiency. Most would describe Adams as a talented operator and less of a visionary. First and foremost, efficiency is about space: convert city office buildings into 100% affordable taking advantage of the post-COVID work-from-home trend, allowing NYCHA to sell air rights to cover the cost of portfolio maintenance, and requiring full management transparency from NYCHA.
Efficiency is also in planning and repurposing. Adams intends to make the highest and best use of city-owned properties, most of which are currently vacant land or underperforming portfolios. The conversion of private offices and hotels into housing is also something Adams intends to get done. However, this move would require his administration to simplify the approval process that would make commercial Certificate of Occupancies incompatible for residential use.
Finally, efficiency is in the coordination of actions. Most city agencies exist in silos that do not talk to each other. This situation can make a permitting process take months instead of weeks. "We have to take the guessing game out of government. We exist in silos. There are no coordinated efforts." Adams declared. This effort should enable the city's agencies to act as one, primarily using technology to achieve coordination.
Addressing the Technological Lag that Hinders the City
Whether it is for the sake of efficiency or accuracy, Adams’s technological focus would make New York City one of the most advanced in the United States. One of Adams's priorities would be centralizing the data generated by the various city's agencies such as the Department of Building (DOB) and the Department of City Planning (DCP). "By combining all agency metrics onto a single platform similar to CompStat and using analytics to track performance in real-time, we can go from a reactive approach to city management to being proactive and, eventually, predictive. The cost savings and improved performance will save billions of dollars and deliver far better services to New Yorkers." Adams argues. His vision for the use of predictive analytics certainly aligns with Whiterock's mission, but the difficulty in doing so is two-fold: (1) there needs to be a centralized software to act as the one source of truth for the city's data, (2) the city needs to ascertain the strength of its cybersecurity infrastructure. Indeed, by centralizing all the data into one platform, the city's data would be more vulnerable.
Adams's "Close" Ties with the Real Estate Industry
Eric Adams is closer to the real estate industry than any of his peers. While this might foster a productive channel between City Hall and real estate professionals, it is often criticized by other candidates who state that Adams is "the candidate of developers." In this race, the frontrunner has received more real estate money than any other candidate: $283,000. This figure is 94% higher than the second candidate, Ray McGuire, but represents less than 3.5% of the total money raised to date. This figure is comparable to what de Blasio had raised from real estate investors when he was running for mayor. In 2019, the Department of Investigation reported that Mayor de Blasio violated ethics rules in seeking donations from individuals actively seeking tax breaks and other favors by the city.
While frontrunner Eric Adams is one of the most real estate-friendly candidates in the ongoing mayoral race, his support emanates from his NYPD career at a time when New York City has witnessed a significant increase in crimes. While his real estate plan remains vague, Adams understands the reality of New York's housing better than anyone else – he advised the city on the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. His publicly-known ability to execute coupled with his vision for technology should provide a strong base for New York to solve the ongoing affordability crisis – a phenomenon that is happening nationally which led to the median existing-home prices rising 23.6% in May 2021 from a year earlier to $350,300.