Chairwoman, State Senate Housing, Construction and Community Development Committee
ON WHY TAX INCENTIVES ARE CRITICAL TO BUILDING AFFORDABLE HOUSING...
“The governor is calling for a very large increase in funding to address housing and homelessness. We need more details, and my colleagues and I will have the opportunity in the joint budget hearing to ask our housing commissioner about what the administration has in mind. Obviously, it’s very important to understand the financial side of the equation.
“Whether or not the 421-a benefit will be renewed in the future, it is important to provide some sort of tax incentive program to encourage development of affordable rental properties. I intend to work with my government partners to advance such a program. The mayor’s goal of creating 200,000 affordable units can't be funded by the state. Some form of public-private partnership is necessary. I think New York City’s current tax structure makes it very beneficial to trade tax exemptions in exchange for creation of affordable units.
“We have to anticipate greater need as baby boomers figure out their next steps. I was successful a number of years ago in helping create the Adirondack Community Housing Trust to ensure affordable housing stock in communities where second-home ownership was driving prices to levels unaffordable for local families. When it comes to housing and community development, I can see a lot of need throughout the state. To help meet needs of rural areas, I’d like to see more funding available for smaller projects.”
Chairman, New York City Council Housing and Buildings Committee
ON DE BLASIO’S RECORD ON AFFORDABLE HOUSING...
“In terms of housing, the big question is: Affordable to whom? We throw that word around, and many times I don’t think units that we’re building or preserving are necessarily affordable to the people who are on the lowest rungs of our city. We have to do a better job, as far as that is concerned.
“There is always more work that needs to be done. I think up until this point Mayor Bill de Blasio has actually surpassed the number of units that were supposed to be created or preserved. I don’t believe that former Mayor Michael Bloomberg did as well as he could have, and I’m not sure we’re doing as well as we can as a whole. It’s early in the project to decipher whether or not it’s a success. I do know it took a very long time for the former administration to realize that you have to preserve more than you build, and so I think we missed some opportunities there. This administration got that right, and there’s a large part that has to do with preservation. There’s an ELLA program that deals with the lowest income individuals and families in the city that I’m hoping will be used a lot more. Right now it’s hard to grade. I do believe, however, that we are not reaching the lowest of the income spectrum.”
Regional Administrator, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
On public housing conversions in New York City …
“HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration, or RAD, allows public housing authorities like NYCHA to convert their federal public housing subsidies dollar-for-dollar to Section 8 funding while maintaining many of the tenant rights and protections associated with public housing. The financial advantages of RAD are twofold: First, public housing authorities receive a long-term Section 8 contract that enables them to borrow private capital for much-needed renovations and repairs; and second, congressional funding of the Section 8 program historically has been more stable than that of public housing funding, so it has been less subject to debilitating annual budget cuts.
“NYCHA’s Ocean Bay development will be the first public housing RAD conversion in New York City, though tens of thousands of units have converted to RAD nationwide. If experience elsewhere is any indication, once NYCHA residents see firsthand the improvements that RAD enables, its popularity will spread quickly.
“Currently, the RAD program is capped at 185,000 units by Congress, and it is fully subscribed – so any future RAD deals with NYCHA would require Congress to lift the unit cap. Assuming that happens – and we are optimistic it will – I believe Ocean Bay will be the first of many RAD conversions in the city.”
James S. Rubin
Commissioner New York State Homes and Community Renewal
ON PRESERVING AFFORDABLE HOUSING ACROSS THE STATE...
“Through (New York State Homes and Community Renewal’s) Office of Rent Administration and the Tenant Protection Unit’s enforcement operations, we are working to end tenant harassment and illegal decontrol. And we’ve been making steady progress: Last month ORA initiated an action to re-register 50,000 apartments in buildings receiving J-51 tax benefits and the TPU, working with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and New York City agencies, has done the same for units in certain buildings receiving 421-a tax abatements.
“Since it was created in 2012, the TPU has recaptured more than 48,000 apartments in approximately 4,600 buildings, and in 2015 alone the unit referred several investigations for criminal prosecution, leading to the arrest and indictment of two landlords. Also in the last year, the TPU joined with the city and the attorney general to create the Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force to address the deregulation and destruction of rent regulated apartments. That work continues.
“New York City may dominate the conversation, but it in fact we have a great development record both upstate and downstate. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is committing to build and preserve 100,000 housing units, and we expect the units to be split evenly between upstate and downstate. HCR is also making great progress on the governor’s $1 billion House NY program, launched in 2013, to create and preserve 14,300 units, many of them in upstate communities. One of the program’s main objectives is the preservation of Mitchell-Lama developments to extend their useful lives and extend affordability for 40 more years – 21 out of 35 of those developments are upstate.”
Chairman, New York City Council Land Use Committee
On the de Blasio administration’s rezoning proposals …
“The goals of the administration are laudable. In fact, Mandatory Inclusionary Housing is an important program where it will, in fact, mandate for the first time the development of affordable housing when you’re rezoning a parcel of property. So we certainly conceptually support that. I think when things get a little bit dicey is when you throw in what’s known as ZQA, or Zoning for Quality and Affordability. Part of the confusion for typical citizens is that the city has rolled them both out at the same time. They’re really two independent plans.
“The Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program is very much focused on creating and actually mandating affordable housing in new development. The Zoning for Quality and Affordability runs several hundred pages long and really varies on anything from building heights to reductions in parking to issues such as waivers for the development of senior centers. That is where it gets a little bit more controversial. We certainly think it’s important. At the same time, we’ve heard the overwhelming number of community boards and borough boards and borough presidents who have concerns, although when you separate those concerns, you realize that much of those concerns are really about Zoning for Quality and Affordability.
“We’re trying to address it on a borough by borough basis and how we could potentially improve it. We certainly don’t expect to pass it as is. We expect that there will be significant changes. We hope we can come to a place where the Council will be supportive and, more importantly, where the interests of the community are reflected through Council members and we can actually pass legislation that the communities throughout New York City are comfortable with.”