NYC Housing 10 Issues Series #9: 421-a Property Tax Benefit

Offering tax breaks to real estate developers may incentivize the construction or preservation of affordable housing, but such subsidies can also deprive the city of much-needed revenue. As the city faces significant budgetary challenges, policymakers must ensure that tax subsidy programs like 421-a are structured as efficiently as possible. The NYC mayor could offer to cap the property tax on properties with the 421-a tax exemption who maintain 20 percent of their units as affordable, but this may not maximize city property tax revenue while remaining attractive to property owners. This brief explores the tradeoffs of such a program.

The #NYChousing series, published in 2013 prior to the New York City mayoral election, identified 10 key affordable housing issues that were likely to confront the next mayor of New York City. The series aimed to inform the public about the policy tradeoffs by providing an objective analysis of the pros, cons, and questions related to key housing issues facing New York City. How the incoming New York City mayor would choose address the city's housing challenges in an environment of increasing needs, declining federal support, and a strengthening real estate market would have an enormous effect on the livability, diversity, and character of the city.