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De Blasio Celebrates Most New Affordable Housing Units in 25 Years

By Jeff Mays | July 13, 2015 7:29pm | Updated on July 14, 2015 7:23pm
 On Summit Avenue in The Bronx, a $17 million, 58-unit affordable housing project, is part of Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan to create and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing.
On Summit Avenue in The Bronx, a $17 million, 58-unit affordable housing project, is part of Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan to create and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing.
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DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

THE BRONX — The almost 8,500 affordable apartments finalized or under construction during the 2015 fiscal year were the most new units created in 25 years, city officials said Monday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio made the announcement on Summit Avenue in The Bronx where a $17 million, 58-unit affordable housing project was being built.

"If you address the challenge of housing, a family can get by — they can make ends meet," de Blasio said. "If they can’t address their housing expenses, so many other things are not possible."

De Blasio's plan calls for the creation or preservation of 200,000 units of affordable housing over a decade. During the 2015 fiscal year, which runs from June to June, construction was launched on 8,483 units while another 11,842 units were preserved.

The 20,325 total new and preserved units mark the largest number since 1989 when more than 25,000 units were created or preserved and the second highest total since the city Department of Housing and Preservation Development was launched in 1978, the mayor said.

It also represents an investment of $618 million and provides housing for 50,000 city residents.

"When I speak to my fellow Bronxites, the number one concern is keeping affordable housing," said local Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner.

Eighty-five percent of the units were for extremely low and low income families. They include 1,247 units for the formerly homeless, 1,544 apartments for seniors and 1,164 apartments for the extremely low income, defined as a family of three making less than $23,350 per year.

Brooklyn led the way with 6,915 units created and preserved, followed by Manhattan with 6,010 units and The Bronx with 4,981 units. Staten Island saw 1,229 units created or preserved while Queens had the least with 1,190.

Affordable housing groups applauded de Blasio's efforts, but questioned the affordable housing plan and said the mayor may be taking a "premature victory lap."

Delsenia Glover, campaign manager for the Alliance for Tenant Power, said she was pleased to see affordable units being created but said there also needs to be a strong focus on preserving units.

"We can't build our way out of this crisis," she said. "The only way to keep housing affordable in New York City is to preserve the affordable housing we have."

The 11,842 preserved units are less than the record 22,898 units preserved in 1989. In 2012, 14,400 affordable units were preserved.

Maritza Silva-Farrell, a spokeswoman for the affordable housing group Real Affordability for All, said the city should focus on "deeper levels of real affordability," specifically in areas such as East New York which de Blasio plans to rezone to reach his affordable housing goals.

"Affordable for whom is still the question many New Yorkers ask about the city's housing plan,” said Silva-Farrell.

HPD recently announced that it will make 50 percent of all units built in East New York under the rezoning affordable but advocates and residents said they want to see a "robust plan" that spells out the issue in exact detail.

De Blasio spokesman Wiley Norvell said the record number of units came during the height of former Mayor Ed Koch's housing plan when the city was rebuilding devastated areas of the city such as the South Bronx.

The city has set aside $45 million in the fiscal year 2016 budget to help the owners of small and midsize multifamily properties perform energy and water savings improvements to lower their operating costs in exchange for agreeing to keep the units affordable for the long-term.

The city has also provided $36 million to fund free legal services to tenants who may face harassment while also seeking to prevent buildings from falling into disrepair.

"Preservation is a vital component of Mayor de Blasio’s Housing New York — representing the majority of the plan — including new programs to lock in existing affordable housing and keep tenants in place," said Norvell.