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Thread: One Housing Woe Gives Way to Another

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    Renewing the B.P.C promise

    By Josh Rogers

    “We are going to keep the promise,” Mayor Mike Bloomberg told cheering housing advocates – the types that usually come to City Hall to protest. “I like this kind of crowd. Come back.”

    The broken promise to use excess Battery Park City revenues for affordable housing was made in 1989 and has been a bone of contention ever since. The mayor and city Comptroller Bill Thompson outlined a plan Tuesday to spend $130 million over four years to build or preserve an additional 3,000 apartments for low-income tenants.

    The money comes out of the payments in lieu of taxes the Battery Park City Authority collects and turns over to the city every year. The 25-year-old neighborhood was originally going to have a majority of apartments for low and middle-income tenants, but the plan was changed in the 1980s, first so that the money could be used for affordable housing all over the city and later to allow the city to use the money for budget shortfalls.

    The money is put into a fund controlled by the mayor, comptroller and the B.P.C.A., a state public authority that develops and manages the neighborhood.

    Gov. George Pataki, who controls the B.P.C.A., told Downtown Express last Thursday that it is up to the city to decide how to use the B.P.C. money. He is not expected to block the new plan. Bloomberg and Thompson said they were optimistic, and after the announcement, Lynn Rasic, Pataki’s spokesperson, said the governor was inclined to back the proposal. “We are supportive of this plan and will be working with them,” Rasic said.

    Thompson, a driving force behind the announcement, said the agreement means “thousands of hard working New Yorkers and their families will be able to live in our city without having to choose between paying the rent and buying food.”

    Mary Brosnahan Sullivan, executive director for the Coalition of the Homeless, said she has been trying to redirect these B.P.C. funds for her entire 15 years at the coalition and it was Thompson who was able to make sure it happenned.

    “It’s an extraordinary day,” she said after the announcement. “The comptroller called the bluff and said to the mayor he’s going to come out alone if you don’t support this.”

    Thompson was set to announce the plan two weeks ago, just after his plans were reported in Downtown Express’ UnderCover column. At the announcement, Bloomberg said Thompson deserves as much credit as anyone in his administration, and mayoral appointee Shaun Donovan, commissioner of Housing Preservation and Development, said it would not have happened without the comptroller’s leadership.

    Bloomberg and his Democratic opponents all promised to use the B.P.C. money for affordable housing in 2001, but on Tuesday the mayor said that after Sept. 11 the city economy was reeling and he knew he would not be able to keep the promise when he took office in January 2002. At the end of 2003, the mayor came out with a plan to build or preserve 65,000 affordable apartments and some housing advocates were disappointed the plan did not include B.P.C. money.

    The $130 million from B.P.C. will go to a New York City Housing Trust Fund, which will be the largest such fund in the country, Donovan said. The money will pay for 4,500 apartments and represents a net gain of 3,000 apartments over the mayor’s original goal of saving or building 65,000 affordable apartments by 2008. Bloomberg said the city has reached 26,000 below-market apartments, which includes last year’s agreement at Independence Plaza in Tribeca.

    A coalition of housing groups known as Affordable Housing Here & Now estimates that of the $1 billion in Battery Park City money that was once intended to be spent on affordable housing, only $143 million was used for that purpose.

    H.P.D.’s Donovan said: “It’s about the dollars, but it’s also about keeping faith with all of you and with all New Yorkers about providing the affordable housing that all of us need to remain in New York City and to help our families grow.”

    Some of the money will go to rent subsidies for people who make too much money to qualify for federal assistance, such as a family of four making between $30,000 and $50,000 a year, Donovan said. “We plan to spend the money immediately.”

    There are several sites around the city being considered for housing projects, Donovan said, but none are in Lower Manhattan. During a press conference, Bloomberg noted how well the Downtown residential market has bounced back after Sept. 11.

    Donovan said all of the excess B.P.C. revenue will go into the fund over the next four years and the mayor and governor should sign a deal within a few weeks.

    The mayor did not want a longer-term agreement for the money because it would tie the hands of future administrations, said Donovan. Bloomberg had floated the idea of using $350 million of B.P.C. money for the expansion of the Javits Center in Midtown, but that idea was blocked by Thompson and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Housing Here & Now estimates that if the B.P.C. money were committed over 20 years as opposed to four, 7,000 – 10,000 affordable apartments could be saved or built, compared to the 4,500 under the current plan.

    Bertha Lewis, executive director of ACORN and a member of the housing alliance, criticized the governor, mayor and comptroller last year at a rally in Battery Park City but had nothing but praise for Thompson and Bloomberg Tuesday. “It’s a bold move, it’s a practical move,” she said “It is a move for New York City.” She said she would deal with future administrations in the future.

    Shirley Mayes, 60, who attended the City Hall rally said, “I am happy and I’m not happy.” She was happy to hear more money would be spent on housing, but was not sure it would help her.

    She pays $150 a month herself for her five-story walkup in the Bronx and gets an additional $250 every month under the federally-subsidized Section 8 housing program. “I have been living there almost 14 years and I’m tired of walking up,” she said.

    Hayes said she had to pay $25 for a credit check to apply for low-income housing in an elevator building on 149th St. in the Bronx, but she is sure she won’t get it because she makes less than the income requirement, $18,000 a year.

    Jackie Delvella, who works for New Settlement Houses where Hayes lives, said the B.P.C. plan won’t solve all housing problems but “this is an important first step.”

    Josh@DowntownExpress.com





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    Daily News

    Moving into the projects: More housing

    By ELVA RAMIREZ
    DAILY NEWS WRITER


    With the city's burgeoning population and skyrocketing rents, New Yorkers could soon outgrow New York, housing experts said yesterday.

    But one city planner thinks he's found a way to squeeze in more affordable apartments.

    Michael Kwartler's idea is to take underused open spaces in existing public housing and put low-rise multifamily dwellings on them.

    Kwartler, an urban designer with New York City experience, analyzed 25 of the city's 348 public "towers in the parks."

    He found that 65% of them had underused space. By filling it in with townhouses, Kwartler said the city could house up to 15,000 more families. And the city already owns the land, a big cost saving.

    Creating mixed-income housing would integrate "superblock" towers into the streetscape, experts said. The effect is "a sense of place" for residents and the erasure of the stigma of public housing.

    Kwartler spoke at a gathering of urban planners, architects, economists and policy makers who met at Baruch College to discuss the findings of a 10-month study into affordable housing options in New York City.

    The research was sponsored by the office of the public advocate and the Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute, with funding from the City Council.

    "It's an absolutely brilliant idea," said event speaker and urban planner James Stockard.

    Kwartler's proposal "would make it less easy to distinguish public housing from the rest of the neighborhood, which is exactly the right thing to do."

    Organizers said Kwartler's idea was one of several promising housing options. Others included rezoning manufacturing and commercial districts to include housing and obtaining federal funds to buy housing sites.

    Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, who cautioned that preserving open spaces and parks was important, was buoyed by the discussion at the forum.

    "Beyond its considerable practical value, this study is a sign of hope," she said.

    Originally published on October 22, 2005

    ©New York Daily News, 2005

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    Brilliant idea. Let's hope it's implemented.

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    I agree. These superblocks really have proven to be destructive to the streetscape, a poor use of space and have creaed dead zones in the community. I don't think it would be too radical to demolish and rebuild - allowing larger buildings that guarantee a full replacement of subsidized housing to the lots - integrated with a full scope of housing and retail.

    West 17th by 9th is a good example of bad planning. And the whole ILGWU housing blocks in the East 20's on Eighth are upkept nicely, but are just complete dead zones. Then, there's Coney Island....

  5. #50

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    These towers in a park can be brought back into the city. They should never have left in the first place.

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    The Benefits of the Boom



    Sister Joan Kirby, Sister
    Margaret Coakley and Sister Kathleen
    Cox share an apartment in this West
    52nd Street tenement building,
    renovated in part with funds from
    developers of a tower on West 43rd
    Street. They were evicted from their
    previous home when the nun named
    on the lease moved.



    Sister Joan Kirby, left, Sister
    Margaret Coakley and Sister Kathleen
    Cox, standing, share an apartment in
    a West 52nd Street tenement building.



    In East New York, Adrienne
    Brockington with her daughter Brianne
    Williams (in her arms), grandniece
    Shadina Brockington and daughter
    Princess McAllister. Her development
    was financed in part through the sale
    of tax credits to luxury developers.



    By DENNIS HEVESI
    Published: October 23, 2005

    IT seems counterintuitive, but the luxury real estate market is helping to build housing for low- and moderate-income people.

    Sometimes, the deals create what could be called sibling buildings - for example, a 42-story luxury tower on West 43rd Street is linked to five renovated tenement buildings nine blocks to the north. It was a good deal for both.

    The beige-brick luxury building, called the Ivy Tower, is seven stories taller than it would have been had its developers not agreed to help finance the gut rehabilitation of those century-old buildings at the northwest corner of 52nd Street and 10th Avenue - creating 27 apartments for lower-income people.

    The developers of the Ivy Tower benefited by getting 42 additional units, with rents ranging from $1,850 for a studio to $6,500 for a penthouse.

    But the tenants on 52nd Street, where the five dilapidated tenements were combined and thoroughly modernized, also revel in their good fortune. "This is like luxury, so beautiful," said Sister Kathleen Cox, one of four nuns who live together in a three-bedroom apartment in the once-condemned buildings. Rents in the rehabbed building range from $297 a month for a studio to $947 for a three-bedroom.

    The tradeoff linking the Ivy Tower to Sister Kathleen's relatively sumptuous quarters was made possible through what is known as inclusionary zoning, one of several city programs that provide incentives for market-rate developers to contribute to the inventory of affordable housing. They can buy extra space for their buildings from affordable housing developers; include affordable apartments in their buildings; or buy city-issued certificates from developers of affordable housing that allow them to pay lower property taxes.

    "The traditional equation," said Shaun Donovan, the commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, "has been that the stronger the real estate market, the harder it is to provide affordable housing. These programs turn that old equation on its head because the stronger the market, the greater the incentive for developers to use these programs and, therefore, provide affordable housing."

    As housing economists point out, the market-driven programs do not meet the city's great need for the production of affordable units - but they make a dent. And their impact is expected to increase in the next few years as builders, aware of the city's growing population, take advantage of recently enhanced incentives to build in rezoned areas like the Hudson Yards and West Chelsea in Manhattan, and Greenpoint and Williamsburg in Brooklyn.

    But for Sister Kathleen and her roommates, Sisters Joan Kirby, Margaret Coakley and Judy Garson - all members of the Religious of the Sacred Heart - the impact of those incentives is already deeply felt.

    Three years ago, the nuns were evicted from a tenement building on West 49th Street because a fifth nun, the one whose name was on the lease, had moved into a retirement home near Albany. They used to pay $1,284 for the railroad flat in the old building, with its bathtub in the kitchen, toilet in the hallway, no lock on the front door and rarely seen superintendent.

    Now, at $337 a month less, they are in a rehabbed building with a corniced roof and arched terra cotta windows. "It's day and night," Sister Margaret said. "We have sunlight, fresh air; we have the garden outside. There's doors on the closets, doors on our rooms."

    Sister Joan said, "Here, if any little nick in the floor comes, a tile comes loose, the super fixes it immediately."

    Sister Kathleen says she appreciates "the variety of families in the building; we're elderly, and we just had a little baby down the hall." To which Sister Margaret added, "Just on this floor, we have four different countries."

    Under the program that linked the two buildings, developers can build an extra four square feet of market-rate space for every square foot of affordable space that is created. If the affordable project is done off-site, it must be within the same community-board area or within half a mile of where the market-rate development is being constructed. Part of the concept is to foster mixed-income communities.

    The rehabilitation of the 52nd Street building retained the early 1900's exterior of the five tenements with a thoroughly modernized interior. "It went from walk-ups to elevator," said Joe Restuccia, executive director of the Clinton Housing Development Company, which, along with another affordable housing company, L&M Equities, developed the project. "It has 27 apartments, a community garden."

    The renovated building has more than 25,000 square feet of space. That generated more than 100,000 square feet of extra development space, which was eventually divided among three luxury developers who helped finance the renovation. The largest share, 45,186 square feet, was sold to the builders of the Ivy Tower.

    Mr. Restuccia appreciates the opportunity to make such deals. "Few other cities have the incredibly dynamic real estate market we have where there's such a spread between the market rents and the affordable housing rents," he said. "So, because market-rate units bring in so much rental income, the projects have the ability to support a greater number of affordable units."

    And with a lot more for-sale units on the market in recent years, he said, "The economic return on a condo project easily enables a developer to include an affordable housing component while having greater returns."

    Bernard Friedman, the president of the Penmark Realty Corporation, a partner in the development of Ivy Tower, savored another sort of return from the link between his building and Mr. Restuccia's affordable project. When he witnessed people who had lived in ramshackle buildings moving into the West 52nd Street building, he recalled, "some of them had tears in their eyes."

    "It's a two-way street," Mr. Friedman said. "We are contributing to low-income housing at no expense to the city and we, in turn, get the extra floors on our building."

    The other luxury developers that participated along with Penmark Realty were the Brodsky Organization and the Steinberg & Pokoik Management Corporation.

    Adrienne Brockington has no notion of the intricacies of another city program that allows luxury developers to profit by supporting low-income housing: the 421-a tax abatement program. But she is glad to be living in a new development - with high porches, lawns and walkways - on Loring Avenue in East New York, Brooklyn. Rents there range from $525 a month for a studio to $646 for a two-bedroom.

    "It looks like down South, like in Virginia," Ms. Brockington said. "It's gated, with security. It has grass in the complex" - a far cry from the rough street in Bushwick where she lived for eight years, until 2002.

    The 187 apartments in three-story town houses at 1426 Loring Avenue were developed by the Arker Companies, which has built more than 3,000 affordable rental units in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhattan, in large part by selling 421-a certificates.

    Under the program, a developer of affordable housing can sell the city-issued certificates to developers of new luxury buildings - primarily those between 96th Street and Houston Street in Manhattan - providing a 10-year property tax abatement on the market-rate building. The current negotiable rate for 421-a certificates is about $13,000 for each luxury apartment. The stronger the luxury market - meaning the greater the value of a new building - the higher its property taxes will be; and, therefore, the greater the benefit in buying a tax abatement. So, if a developer is selling condominiums with reduced property taxes, buyers will be able to afford higher purchase prices because their tax bills will be lower.

    Sol Arker, a principal of the family-owned company, said that about 930 certificates were sold to help finance the construction of 1426 Loring Avenue. The 421-a program "is only one component in the city's efforts to meet the housing needs of lower-income people," Mr. Arker said. "I don't believe there's one silver bullet that produces all of the affordable housing needed, but it significantly helps."

    It certainly helped Ms. Brockington.

    "I'm on disability because I had a stroke two years ago," said Ms. Brockington, 40, the mother of two daughters - one 18, the other 18 months old - who recently also took custody of her 15-year-old grandniece. Ms. Brockington, who is in a program that teaches computer skills, was one of the applicants picked in a lottery run by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to live in the Loring Avenue development. Her old neighborhood, she said, "was drug-infested; there were shootouts all the time."

    A total of 4,271 affordable units have been created through the inclusionary and 421-a programs. "It's sort of Robin Hood," said Adam Weinstein, president of Phipps Houses, a nonprofit affordable housing group that owns or manages about 13,000 apartments in Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx. "It's taking the enormous value in a strong market and transferring - cream skimming, in effect - some of that value for social good: affordable housing," he said.

    For example, Mr. Weinstein said his organization holds "an extremely valuable piece of real estate" on East 25th Street - an underused playground that is part of a 400-unit affordable development built 30 years ago - that will become the site of 50 more affordable apartments.

    Michael D. Lappin, president and chief executive of the Community Preservation Corporation, another major nonprofit housing group, said his organization had invested nearly $5 billion preserving or developing 120,000 units of affordable housing.

    More is on the way. Mr. Lappin said deals are being considered by churches in central Brooklyn that "flourished in one era and now have a lot of underutilized property" - rectories or schools. If they build affordable housing on their property and finance it by selling air rights, they will also help their members. "Their angst was that their congregants were being priced out of their neighborhoods, at $1,500 to rent a two-bedroom in a brownstone," he said.

    Mr. Donovan, the city's housing commissioner, said mixed-income communities are the right model for the future. With the inclusionary program, he said, "we're essentially creating new neighborhoods from the ground up."

    He expects that 30,000 units will be built in the next few years in the recently rezoned areas of Brooklyn and on Manhattan's West Side. "Using our new inclusionary program, which is the most aggressive in the country, along with city-owned land and other incentives," he said, "we expect 8,500 of those units to be affordable."

    But more will certainly be needed, said George W. McCarthy, a housing economist at the Ford Foundation. Calling himself "a big fan of inclusionary zoning and 421-a incentives," Dr. McCarthy said, "While these market-based programs are laudable, they are still insufficient to meet the growing needs of New York City's low- and moderate-income families."

    For those who have benefited, the changes have been enormous. David Lopez, a New York City police detective, and his wife, Janet, a waitress, and their 11-year-old son, David Jr., live in the rehabbed West 52nd Street building where the four nuns also reside. They were allowed to move in after another tenement they had been living in, on West 37th Street, was closed for renovations. The Lopezes pay $840 a month for a two-bedroom.

    A 24-story luxury building is rising next door. "This area is up and coming; new apartments, new buildings," the detective said. On the open market, "I'd definitely have a hard time finding something like this in Manhattan," he said.


    Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

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    Getting on the Lists For Affordable Housing


    DENNIS HEVESI
    Published: October 23, 2005

    THE city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development supervises separate lotteries for each affordable housing project. Advertisements for projects are placed in community newspapers, in citywide dailies and on the department's Web site, www.nyc.gov/hpd.

    The department's home page includes a "For Apartment Seekers" section, with a directory called Current Housing Lotteries. The directory lists all apartments currently available under inclusionary zoning, the 421-a tax-exemption program and all other housing programs. The department gives preference for the sale or rental of half the homes it helps create or rehabilitate to current residents of the community board district where the homes are located.

    The listings specify the income-eligibility requirements, which vary from project to project. For example, the annual income requirement for new tenants at the five tenement buildings on West 52nd Street ranged from $30,470 for a one-person household to $43,520 for a household of four people.

    Someone seeking an apartment must request an application and return it by a specified date. No application or broker fees are charged, although the developer may charge for an applicant's credit report. Those chosen in the lottery must go through a series of interviews.

    In general, the lotteries receive far more applications than the number of homes available.


    Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

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    27% of Public Housing Tenants Face More Rent Under City Plan



    Members of Community Voices Heard, who are residents of public housing, protested higher fees Thursday near
    City Hall. Dayshawn Smith, 7, performed a skit aimed to show New Yorkers "living in boxes."



    By JANNY SCOTT
    Published: April 21, 2006

    The New York City Housing Authority announced yesterday that it wants to raise the rents paid by tens of thousands of its better-off tenants. The move, the biggest change in housing authority rents since 1989, is intended to help close a budget gap that has widened as costs have shot up and federal financing has not, officials said.

    The proposed rent increases, some as high as several hundred dollars a month over the next two years, would affect nearly 47,000 households with annual incomes ranging from $19,800 to as high as $100,000. They make up 27 percent of all authority households. The remaining 128,000 poorer households, whose rent is fixed at one third of their income, would be unaffected.

    The housing authority's chairman, Tino Hernandez, said yesterday that the agency "is at a defining moment in its history."

    If the authority does not solve the problem of its recurring deficits, Mr. Hernandez and other administrators said, it will exhaust its depleted reserves in less than two years.

    The authority, the largest in the country with more than 400,000 tenants, last fixed rent ceilings, beyond which no tenant's rent could climb, in 1989. The aim of those "ceiling rents" was to encourage upwardly mobile families to remain in public housing, cultivating a socioeconomic mix that some say has been crucial to the authority's success.

    Under the new proposal, a family with a household income of about $40,000 living in a two-bedroom apartment would see its monthly rent increase to $546 from $495 in two years.

    The proposed change, which would be phased in starting in September and requires approval of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees all local housing authorities, comes on the heels of the New York authority's decision to impose increased tenant fees for everything from owning a washing machine and a dishwasher to getting a broken door fixed or a key fished out of an elevator shaft.

    Mr. Hernandez announced several other steps being taken in what he called the authority's "seven-point plan to preserve public housing." Those steps include an offer from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's administration of $100 million to help the authority pay its bills while it continues to look for new ways to raise revenue and cut costs.

    The authority also intends to ask for approval to use federal Section 8 housing money to subsidize 8,400 of 21,000 authority-run units that were built by the city and state in the 1950's and 1960's. Because those units no longer receive any state or city subsidy, they are said to account for nearly half of the authority's $168 million operating deficit.

    A letter from Mr. Hernandez announcing the proposals was to be distributed to every household yesterday. The authority is planning to hold five town hall meetings next month, one in each borough, and a public hearing in early June.

    Victor Bach, a senior housing policy analyst for the Community Service Society, a nonprofit group that works against poverty, said in an interview: "There is clearly a reason to increase the ceiling rents since they haven't been increased in 20 years, at a time when maintenance and operating costs have gone up. The question is whether they're being increased to reasonable levels, whether they will cause any undue hardship for tenants."

    He added, "I think it's going to be an issue and a decision that's going to be a hard fight with tenants, who are very sensitive to the rent issue."

    Indeed, interviewed last night, one New York City tenant — from the Baruch Houses, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan — said the $495 rent she pays now for a two-bedroom apartment would rise by 40 percent under the new plan.

    The tenant, Damaris Reyes, one of the residents in the system with a higher income, said: "Not that the current circumstances don't warrant some kind of an increase. Clearly when expenses go up, you have to generate more revenue. It's really about what kind of services you will get."

    The authority houses more than 417,000 New Yorkers; the average household income is $19,000. Nearly half the authority's operating revenue comes from rent; most of the rest comes from federal financing, which covers a declining percentage of the authority's escalating costs.

    This year, the authority said it was facing a $168 million budget shortfall, largely as a result of enormous increases in energy and pension costs. Since 2001, it said, it has spent $357 million from its reserves to close repeated budget gaps; this year, for the first time, it no longer has enough reserves to cover the shortfall.

    The new rent increase proposal, expected to generate $60.8 million by the 2009 fiscal year, would affect only the 27 percent of households that currently pay the ceiling rents. Their new rents would be based on apartment size and household income. The increases, over two years, would range from 10 to 40 percent.

    Households making less than 60 percent of the area's median income, or an average of $29,119, would see their rents rise by 10 percent to $557 from $505. Those making between 60 and 80 percent of the median, or an average of $41,137, would see theirs rise to $624 from $515.

    Authority administrators say the highest-income households currently spend as little as 10 percent of their income on rent. That percentage would increase to 15 percent — well below the percentage paid by poorer tenants. While the higher-income tenants' rents have remained capped since 1989, rents in rent-stabilized apartments in the city have risen more than 50 percent, officials said.

    Sunia Zaterman, executive director of the Council of Large Housing Authorities in Washington, described the New York authority's proposal as "sound and well thought out."

    She said: "Those are difficult challenges given the history of the funding levels for housing authorities. I think they've presented a balanced plan."






    Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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    May 27, 2006
    Lower-Priced Housing Is Vanishing at a Faster Pace
    By JANNY SCOTT

    The shrinking of New York City's supply of privately owned but subsidized rental apartments — housing relied upon by many working-class New Yorkers as well as teachers, civil servants and police officers — has accelerated sharply over the past three years, according to two new studies tracking the erosion of lower-priced housing in the city.

    A study to be released today by the Community Service Society of New York found that nearly a quarter of the roughly 121,000 apartments built under federal and state subsidy programs dating from the 1960's and 1970's left those programs from 1990 to 2005. The rate of withdrawal grew in the late 1990's and hit its highest level last year.

    Another study, released on Thursday by the Office of the New York City Comptroller looked largely at losses from the state's Mitchell-Lama program, and found that more than 25,000 units have been withdrawn or have begun that process since 2004. That number is greater than the 24,000 units pulled out in all the years before 2004, the study said.

    "When we last looked in 2003, an estimated 10 percent of the stock was lost or in the process, " said Victor Bach, the senior housing policy analyst at the Community Service Society and an author of its report, along with Tom Waters. "Now it's up to 25 percent. It's really accelerating."

    Both reports suggested that the losses may soon outweigh the effects of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's efforts to build and preserve 165,000 units of low- and moderate-income housing by 2013. But city officials said the 56,000 units that they say the administration has already financed significantly exceeds the number of units lost.

    They also said many residents of buildings have been able to remain in their buildings without paying high rents. Buildings built before 1974 fall under the rent stabilization system, and tenants in other buildings get federal Section 8 vouchers, which cover the gap between the rent they can afford and the market rate.

    "That's not to say this is not an issue, that we shouldn't do more," Shaun Donovan, commissioner of the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development, said of the reports. "But I think they're overstating what the impact is."

    According to city figures, there are about 250,000 units of government-assisted housing in the city, developed through low-income housing tax credits, the Mitchell-Lama program and various federal subsidy programs. Under Mitchell-Lama and similar programs, in return for the government aid, building owners were required to keep rents affordable to low- and moderate-income people for a time, often 20 years, before they could leave the programs.

    In recent years, more buildings have become eligible to withdraw. The strength of the real estate market has created new incentives to pull out. The Bloomberg administration, with some success, has developed programs to encourage owners to stay, but attrition has continued.

    "Since 2004, the number has skyrocketed," said William C. Thompson Jr., the city comptroller, citing his office's study of losses of units from the Mitchell-Lama program and the similar Limited Dividend housing program. "In 2004, what we had talked about was an impending crisis in affordable housing. Today, that crisis is here."

    The Community Service Society study looked at losses not only from the Mitchell-Lama program, but also from two federal mortgage-interest subsidy programs and the project-based Section 8 rent subsidy program. The study found that 23 percent of 120,917 apartments were lost from 1990 to 2005, including 5,518 in 2005 alone. Another 13 percent are imminently at risk, it said.

    Attrition has been heaviest among Mitchell-Lama apartments, Mr. Waters said. Just 1,111 Mitchell-Lama apartments with a federal subsidy had been lost through 2002; by early this year, that number had risen to 9,528. Among those without a federal subsidy, 12,755, or 53 percent of all units, were lost from 1990 to 2005.

    The number lost from the project-based Section 8 program rose to 5,478 in late 2005 from 3,363 in 2002.

    The comptroller's office found that 28 Mitchell-Lama developments and one Limited Dividend development, totaling 13,000 units, have begun withdrawing. It predicted that if they withdraw, the city will have lost 49,000 units, or 33 percent of all units built under those two programs.

    The comptroller's office calculated that the city had financed the creation of 12,229 low and moderate-income units in the period since 2002, a period in which the study said 12,943 Mitchell-Lama units were lost. But city officials said they have financed the preservation and creation of over 56,000 low- and middle-income units since 2002.

    Mr. Waters said he did not think that the losses have outweighed the gains in lower-priced housing yet but they could do so in the future. He said that a lot of the new units being created by the city are for middle-income people — out of reach of many in the group that the older subsidized apartments have tended to house.

    Among other recommendations, the Community Service Society called for federal funding to increase the subsidy for projects in areas in which the real estate market is hot, state help in refinancing mortgages, and improved tenant protections. Both studies urged the State Legislature to pass two pending bills that would place all Mitchell-Lama rental buildings under rent stabilization once they leave the program.

    Interviews with tenants in several buildings that have left the subsidy programs indicated that change has been gradual in many cases.

    Jean Green Dorsey, chairwoman of the tenants association in an Upper West Side apartment complex that left the Mitchell-Lama program eight years ago, said more than 80 percent of tenants have stayed and are paying rents at the stabilized rate. Mrs. Dorsey, who said that she and her husband pay $600 for their two-bedroom apartment with a terrace, said that rents for vacant apartments have tripled.

    Edward Clarke, president of the tenants association at Boulevard Towers I in Soundview in the Bronx, which also left Mitchell-Lama, said tenants who stayed are paying rents similar to what they paid before. But, he said, evictions have gone up. And, in 10 years, he predicts, the residents will be a different crowd.

    "Quite frankly, a lot of people I know are moving out of the city altogether," said Mr. Clarke, 36, an operations analyst with Mellon Investor Services. "Because of how much of your income you spend just renting an apartment, you can't really live a decent life or really enjoy all the offers and benefits the city has."



    Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

  10. #55
    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    Ax rent hikes, tenants howl


    Tracy Swartz
    June 20, 2006

    Calling affordable housing in New York City "a crisis," hundreds of city tenants urged the Rent Guidelines Board yesterday to reject a proposed rent hike between 3% and 8.5% for rent-stabilized apartments.

    "We cannot afford another increase," said Ursula Morgan of Norwood, the Bronx, during a public hearing at Hostos Community College. "If you want to see a city full of homeless people, keep raising the rent, and that's what's going to happen."

    The board is considering raising rents between 3% to 6.5% for one-year leases and between 5% to 8.5% for two-year leases. The board will vote June 27 on any increases, which will take effect Oct. 1.

    The board entertained comments from the public for several hours at a sometimes raucous hearing. Tenants chanted, "Freeze the rents" while holding signs that read, "We have to survive. Zero increase" and "Landlords don't need big rent hikes."

    Audience members hissed Eamon Toscano, a landlord in the north Bronx, who asked the board for a 10% rent increase to help cope with rising costs for oil and insurance.

    "When we pay all the bills, there's not much left," Toscano said.

    According to the Rent Stabilization Association, a landlord group, the average rent in the Bronx is $674 a month - nearly $200 below the city average.

    But Adele Bender of Queens argued that tenants shoulder much of the burden.

    "I know the landlords talk about their expenses, but what about our expenses?" she said.

    City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) denounced the proposed hikes and urged the board to "dramatically reconsider."

    The board will hold another public hearing from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday at the Great Hall at Cooper Union in Manhattan.


    All contents © 2006 Daily News, L.P.

  11. #56
    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    DON'T JUST SIT THERE, SHELTER SOMEBODY
    The first-ever broad count of neglected buildings in the city may reveal housing opportunities.



    By Cassi Feldman

    For most New Yorkers, the thought of abandoned property conjures images of the South Bronx in the 1970s, when owners deserted or even burned their buildings rather than pay taxes on them. Yet local anti-homelessness activists say that despite the current housing crunch, empty buildings still abound—and they’ve convinced Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer to take action.

    This Saturday, Stringer’s office will sponsor the first large-scale count of abandoned properties in Manhattan. Volunteers will scour assigned sections of the borough, including Harlem, Washington Heights, Greenwich Village and Chinatown, looking for what the office defined as “any residential, commercial, or mixed-use building that is not occupied and has visible signs of distress.” They will also be asked to identify vacant lots and empty buildings in seemingly good condition.

    The count comes at a time when the city has sold off all but 2,000 of the 100,000 units of derelict property it once controlled. Stringer hopes his count will help locate new sites for affordable housing. “It’s about being able to go to the owner and say, ‘Hey, this is your situation and these are the programs and incentives that are available to you,’” he said. If the land is publicly owned, his office will contact the appropriate government agency. Stringer expressed hope that similar tallies may be undertaken in other neighborhoods and boroughs.

    The count was spearheaded by Picture the Homeless, a Harlem-based activist group. Its members say that dozens of properties in their neighborhood, including nearly an entire block at 125th Street and Lenox Avenue, have been empty for years. A source familiar with the Lenox Avenue site said the buildings were only recently fully vacated and will soon be demolished and redeveloped.

    Activists aren’t swayed by such assurances. “We’re in a housing crisis and you have landlords warehousing ... buildings,” said Roosevelt Orphee, 46, a member of Picture the Homeless. He’s a former Verizon switchboard operator who now lives at a homeless shelter for single men. “People are [sleeping] outside while buildings are being kept offline.”

    Other cities, including Boston and St. Louis, have undertaken similar counts with a goal of reducing blight and encouraging the development of affordable housing. Boston does an annual street-by-street count of abandoned properties that covers most of the city. When housing agency staffers find buildings that qualify, they post the addresses online to urge neglectful owners to either use the buildings or sell them. Since 2000, the number of abandoned buildings in the city has dropped by 43 percent.

    Tim Davis, senior research analyst for Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development, attributes that decrease partly to the count, partly to his agency’s housing programs and partly to market forces, which made have made the buildings more desirable over time. Still, he said, his work is far from done. “The market is hesitating,” he said. “We’re careful to see what happens to make sure that it doesn’t deteriorate.”

    St. Louis, home to 5,699 vacant buildings at last count, plans to clear the path to smarter land use by demolishing any abandoned structures considered a threat to the safety of nearby residents or an obstacle to redevelopment. More than 2,700 such buildings have been demolished over the last five years.

    Here in New York, Stringer said each property would be examined on a case-by-case basis to determine if its owner had defaulted on taxes, for instance, or failed to correct building code violations. If not, there isn’t much the city can do. But even in buildings with problems, Stringer seems reluctant to call for heavy-handed tactics like the use of eminent domain. “The real goal here is education,” he said. “We want to reach out in a positive way.”


    Copyright © 2006 City Futures, Inc.

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    Housing Advocates Take Count Of Vacant Lots In Manhattan





    July 23, 2006

    In a city where real estate is at a premium, Manhattan's borough president wants to know just how many abandoned properties are in his borough.

    Scott Stringer, along with a group of 100 volunteers, scoured Manhattan yesterday to count the number of abandoned buildings and vacant lots in the borough. The street by street count will be used to identify places affordable housing could be built.

    "We don't know why, in a hot housing market, we have vacancies like this in this," said Stringer. "We don't know who owns these properties. Are they tax delinquent? Does the city own them? We want to know specifically, exactly what is going on with this borough."

    Similar counts in other cities have been successful. After Boston did a count, it was able to reduce the number of vacant lots and buildings by 43 percent.


    Copyright © 2006 NY1 News.

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    When it costs more money, or when there is a legal problem, sometimes it is easier to just let a problem sit than to do anything with it.

    What happens with things like that warehouse fire of the property whose owner/developer seems to have a lot of fires on his lands? Not everyone in the city can pay homeless guys to burn the insulation off of wiring to try to get the copper you know.....

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    Unrealized Real Estate: Manhattan’s Empty Buildings

    By JAKE MOONEY

    Published: August 6, 2006

    It may not be strictly true to call the five-story apartment building on 127th Street, just east of Lenox Avenue in Harlem, abandoned.

    On a recent Saturday afternoon, the sagging scaffolding encasing its ground floor sheltered at least a dozen homeless people, and someone had spray-painted the words “guard dog” on the front door, which was chained shut. A banner from the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, proclaiming “The New Housing Marketplace,” hung from an upper floor, although one corner had become detached, rendering the rest of the sign unreadable.

    Shanifah Rieara, director of the uptown office of the Manhattan borough president, Scott Stringer, carefully noted the building’s address and condition, and a volunteer, Beverly Clark-Griggsby, snapped a picture with a disposable camera, then moved on down the block.

    The two were part of an initiative, organized by Mr. Stringer’s office and the nonprofit group Picture the Homeless, to count Manhattan’s abandoned buildings and vacant lots.

    Improbable as it may sound after the city’s long building boom, such properties are still out there, and on this day hundreds of volunteers combed the streets with clipboards, counting buildings.

    Mr. Stringer said the information collected would be used to contact the owners of the properties, city agencies and community organizations and to encourage creation of low-income housing.

    Similar counts have taken place in Boston, Albany and St. Louis, and he said the Boston count helped produce a 43 percent reduction in vacant buildings. Eric Pugatch, a spokesman for the borough president, said on Thursday that so far Mr. Stringer’s office had identified more than 1,000 Manhattan locations that appeared to be vacant, although the counting had not been completed and the properties would have to be evaluated individually before a final total could be determined this fall.

    “This is going to surprise people,” Mr. Stringer said, standing in front of a row of boarded-up brownstones on 126th Street.

    A few blocks away, Ms. Clark-Griggsby described a building on 136th Street next to a brownstone that her cousin recently bought.

    “The building has garbage falling out the windows,” she said. “The man there said it had been that way for 16 years. I said, ‘Excuse me, sir?’ ”

    In a tight market, the wasted properties could make a big difference. “Every day there are about 8 to 10 people that come into our office looking for housing opportunities,” Ms. Rieara said.

    Ms. Clark-Griggsby asked two men sitting on boxes on the stoop of a boarded-up three-story building to move, and she took another picture.

    “When she said 127th Street, I said, ‘Oh, boy, I hope I have enough film in one camera,’ ” Ms. Clark-Griggsby said.

    Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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    New York Lags in Housing Creation, Census Data Show

    BY DAVID LOMBINO - Staff Reporter of the Sun
    August 22, 2006
    URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/38325

    The Arizona county that contains Phoenix added more housing units than all of New York State last year, according to numbers released by the U.S. Census Bureau yesterday.

    New York added 33,666 housing units, an increase of 0.4% of its total housing stock, from July 2004 to July 2005. That makes it second-worst among the 50 states in percentage housing growth, trailing only Rhode Island.

    In total number of units built, New York ranked 20th. Florida added nearly 247,000 units of housing, followed by California and Texas. States like Minnesota, South Carolina, Georgia, and Wisconsin also beat out New York.

    A professor of demographics at Cornell University, Warren Brown, said the state's tepid pace of housing growth stems from slow population growth, particularly in upstate New York, a trend that he said began regionally in the 1970s.

    "There is no increase in population because there aren't the jobs," Mr. Brown said. "People aren't moving here for the climate. They would come for jobs."

    A senior policy analyst at the Regional Plan Association, Alexis Perrotta, said she would not characterize New York's housing growth as slow.

    She said most of the housing growth in states like Florida and Arizona was likely to be single family housing that she said is "barely possible" in most downstate New York areas, which are mostly built out.

    "That is plain old suburban growth which is not possible in our region. We already did that. We did that 60 years ago," Ms. Perrotta said.

    A spokesman for the state's Division of Housing and Community Renewal, Peter Moses, said: "We are very proud of our housing accomplishments in the state of New York. Since 1995, $11 billion has been invested in affordable hosing in this state."

    The Census Bureau also published housing data by county. The fastest growing county by total units was Maricopa County, Ariz., which contains Phoenix. It added 52,000 homes over the period. It was followed by Clark County, Nevada, which contains Las Vegas, and Harris County, Texas, which is home to Houston.

    The five counties that make up New York City added more than 16,300 housing units from 2004 to 2005, according to the census. While the city is visibly going through a housing boom, the census figure falls short of the city's more recent estimates that more than 30,000 units are being constructed.

    Still, the number of new housing units reported in New York City is an increase of about 31% over the previous year measured by the census, 2003 to 2004.

    A spokesman for the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Neill Coleman, said the city is sticking by its estimates, which are based on the number of building permits filed each year. He noted that last year more building permits were filed than in any year on record since 1972, and so far in 2006 building permits are being filed at a similar pace.

    Mr. Coleman said that there are tens of thousands of housing units now under construction that do not appear in the latest census data but will soon. Mayor Bloomberg has a $7.5 billion plan to build and preserve 165,000 units of affordable housing over ten years.

    Mr. Brown, of Cornell, said that the Census Bureau's methodology underestimates the number of new housing units in New York City. He said the bureau does not take conversions into account, and overestimates the amount of demolitions, or houses lost each year.

    "It is probably pretty good data for Flagler County, Florida, but it is probably not good data for the five counties of New York City," Mr. Brown said.

    He said that the Census housing data can have important ramifications. "Some federal monies are distributed to localities on the basis of these estimates, which favors suburban areas," Mr. Brown said.

    An analyst with the Census Bureau, Greg Harper, said that the bureau estimates the amount of housing units destroyed, demolished or inhabitable each year.

    "New York City might think we estimate too much loss for them," Mr. Harper said.

    He said that based on the Census Bureau's building permit data for 2005 to 2006, New York City is due for a substantially bigger increase in new units next year.

    An editor of the City Journal, Nicole Gelinas, said that New York State's tax policy is affecting migration, and is keeping population growth down and stunting housing starts.

    "If you look at where all of these houses are being built, it is a story about the migration to the south and the southwest," Ms. Gelinas said. "All of these places have lower state taxes than New York."

    "People are fleeing high housing costs, but they are also fleeing high taxes and moving to a more hospitable tax climate," she said.

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