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De Blasio Unveils Planned To Rezone SoHo To Add Affordable Housing

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - More affordable housing could be coming to the SoHo-NoHo area,

A proposal backed by Mayor Bill de Blasio would change zoning laws to allow for new development.

CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas explains what it means, and why some residents are ready for a fight.

SoHo and NoHo have transformed from a manufacturing hub to one for upscale destination retail. Known for its spacious loft apartments, Sean Sweeney of the SoHo Alliance moved in when it was less desirable in 1981.

"We pioneered a neighborhood out of the urban wilderness. Slowly and surely it got more popular and we were all paying cheep rents," Sweeney said.

Those days are over, with newcomers shelling out top dollar. But under a new rezoning plan backed by the mayor, that could change.

"There needs to be affordable housing in every community, including those that are upper income," de Blasio said.

Under the proposal, as many as 3,200 new homes could be created. According to the city, roughly 800 would be affordable units.

"Not only will this help with housing and affordable housing, it will help with jobs. It will help with economic activity," said Moses Gates of the Regional Plan Association.

Gates says the city has outgrown the industrial zoning laws that were last modified in the '70s, not properly serving those who really need the affordable units.

"It should be for the poor, the working class, even for people in NYCHA even the people in these hotels. They should be the ones getting this housing, not the upper middle class," Sweeney said.

Add to that concerns about the possibility of new development towering over existing buildings.

"If de Blasio is looking for a knife fight he's going to get it. We want something reasonable. Not something he's imposing on us," Sweeney said.

It's proximity to transit and retail make it prime real estate. For decades, the city left it alone - until now.

The plan is a long way from being finalized. The public review process will begin later this month.

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