Mayor Bill de Blasio Pledges to Create 1,500 Cheap Houses for Artists

Mayor Bill de Blasio. Courtesy photographer Spencer Platt, courtesy Getty Images.

Some good news for the artists of New York: in Bill de Blasio’s second State of the City Address, delivered this afternoon, the mayor outlined his plan for addressing New York’s housing problem, which includes building 1,500 affordable artist work/live spaces by 2024.

It is part of de Blasio’s larger plan to increase the availability of affordable housing, thereby creating more economically diverse neighborhoods. Artists were one of three groups, along with veterans and seniors, the mayor singled out as being in need of better housing. He praised artists as important to the city, saying, “We know that New York is the city it is today in part because of the contributions from generations of artistic visionaries who at one point struggled to make ends meet.”

“Nothing more clearly expresses the inequality gap—the opportunity gap—than the soaring cost of housing,” said the mayor of the housing issue, which has supplanted universal pre-kindergarten as number one on his agenda. “If we fail to be a city for everyone, we risk losing what makes New York New York. We risk losing the very soul of this place.” (On that topic, see Ben Davis’s recent column Why I Believe New York’s Art Scene is Doomed.)

In order to make life in New York possible for the city’s new generation of creatives (described by the mayor as young people who “pursue their natural talents in professions that often don’t promise a big paycheck”), the housing units will be accompanied by “500 dedicated affordable work spaces for the cultural community” converted from underutilized city-owned property.

“We just can’t allow artists to be priced out of New York City,” Tom Finkelpearl, commissioner of the department of cultural affairs, told WNYC. “They’re important for the soul of the city, they’re important for neighborhoods, they’re really important for the economy.”

Of course, with only 2,000 combined spaces for housing and studio space available, demand is sure to be extremely high (see 53,000 Artists Vie for 89 Affordable East Harlem Apartments and ARTISTS: Get Subsidized Housing at East Harlem’s El Barrio Artspace). The vast majority of artists will no doubt still be on their own.

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