421-a: Tax Exemption

Numbers Behind 421-a and Affordable Housing Revealed

In total, the city forfeited more than $1.1 billion in tax revenue in 2014 alone through the 421-a program, 60% of which subsidized buildings in Manhattan

“Reimagining 421-a as an engine for affordable housing was a well-intentioned but doomed idea. We’ve amended it again and again over four decades, trying to mold a program that was designed during a construction drought into one that makes sense during a construction boom. The geographic exclusionary area should do just that—exclude luxury neighborhoods from cashing in on 421-a.” -Margaret Newman, MAS Executive Director

An interactive visualization (above) maps the impact of one of New York City’s most expensive housing incentive programs, building by building across the city. This data is accessible to the public for the first time, thanks to MAS’s work in tracking down and merging data from the Department of Finance, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the Department of City Planning and the City’s Independent Budget Office.

The 421-a program is up for renewal by the New York State legislature in June 2015. Based on the findings revealed in the maps, MAS urges that the program cannot be renewed as is.

Albany must:
  • Rationalize 421-a’s cost-benefit equation either by strengthening the affordability requirements or by decreasing the financial incentives;
  • Redraw the lines of the GEA to reflect actual market conditions, based on data and statistics, rather than politics; and
  • Dramatically increase the program’s public transparency and use this data to monitor the program’s successes and failures.