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City's Short-Term Affordable Housing Deals Shortchange Tenants, Group Says

By Rosa Goldensohn | October 9, 2015 11:01am | Updated on October 11, 2015 8:55pm
 Developers who get free land should build permanently affordable housing, ANHD said.
Developers who get free land should build permanently affordable housing, ANHD said.
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CIVIC CENTER — The city should stop giving away land and subsidies to developers who build housing that is only temporarily affordable and push for permanently affordable units, a housing policy group argued in a paper released Thursday.

Nearly 170,000 affordable apartments in the city are set to lose their status over the next two decades thanks to expiring agreements from the 1980s and 90s, according to the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development. Many of those units were built on city land with public money, but because they belong to private developers, the city has no long-term say over the property.

“We are starting to move backward at an increasingly rapid pace as we lose more and more affordable housing,” the ANHD’s new policy paper says. “Unaddressed, this trickle will soon turn into a flood.”

The city’s current practice of handing out land, tax credits and subsidies for housing that will only be affordable for a limited period of time only worsens the trend, according Moses Gates, the paper’s author. He said the city's Economic Development Corporation and Department of Housing Preservation and Development give away assets to developers who make a huge profit rather than nonprofit groups who would keep the housing affordable permanently.

“They’re not interested in who controls the city land," he told DNAinfo. "All they’re interested in is who can build what they want to build for the least amount of money.”

HPD responded with a statement highlighting the permanently affordable units that will be built in newly proposed mandatory inclusionary zones, planned for East New York, Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, Flushing, Long Island City and Bay Street in Long Island.

“The City’s new mandatory inclusionary housing program is focused on delivering permanently affordable housing to communities across the city," HPD spokeswoman Elizabeth Rohfling wrote in a statement.

"Because the land use changes we’re making are permanent, so is the affordable housing. And because of our financial analysis and enforcement tools, we can be sure those units won’t just be permanently affordable on paper, but in reality."

She did not address the issue of the creation of new, time-limited affordable units, but said the department would "make sure we don’t let the thousands of apartments previous administrations have invested in expire, and extend their affordability for decades to come."

EDC did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Up to 30 percent of HPD's and the city's Housing Development Corporation's subsidies are spent on preserving the affordability of existing projects, money that could be saved by making projects permanently affordable in the first place, according to the paper.

By giving away land for developments now that are only affordable in the short term, Gates said, the city kicks the affordability problem to the next generation.

“The city said it would build 200,000 in ten years and that’s what they want to do,” he said. “If these units expire in 2046, that’s the problem of the mayor in 2046.”