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Andrew Cuomo believes in H.E.L.P.

"The city is evidencing so many social problems that if you don't address these needs, we will not have a city left in 10 years," insisted Andrew M. Cuomo, founder of H.E.L.P. and the country's most vocal and successful builder of affordable housing having serviced 3,000 people over the past six years.

During a detailed presentation, Cuomo, assisted by New York State Housing Agency Director Patrick Eckman, explained the basics of building affordable housing to Larry Silverstein's workshop participants at the New York University's Midtown campus.

Cuomo believes that affordable housing needs are critical. Cities spend far too much providing welfare hotels at a greater cost for a few, rather than providing the many with a greater shelter allowance, he noted.

With the help of construction manager Tishman/Speyer and a variety of financing, Cuomo has built several different kinds of facilities. "H.E.L.P. I" is transitional housing, which is occupied for approximately six months while families receive extensive social services. "H.E.L.P. PSI," is an AIDS and substance abuse care facility. H.E.L.P Homes provide permanent housing for formerly homeless and low-income households. Facilities are located in New York City, Westchester and Long Island.

Equity Homes, proposed for Westchester, are expected to sell for approximately $134,000 with $10,000 of that as a down payment. The development of two-family homes will contain an owner's three-bedroom unit and a rental tenant's one- or two-bedroom unit, pledged to a Section 8 tenant in order to provide the extra income.

The homes will receive a New York State Affordable Housing Corporation writedown of $50,000 to make them affordable to families at or below the median income level of $55,800 and after 10 years, a home may be sold for a market rate.

Transitional housing for the formerly homeless, Cuomo believes, should be a place to prepare people to be responsible citizens using a variety of social services.

Most of these families are eligible for welfare assistance that provides a housing grant of $312 per month for a mother and two children but Cuomo says that money is not enough to pay for an apartment, let alone social cervices.

Cuomo and Eckman outlined ways of mixing the welfare population with the working poor, Section 8 eligible tenants --who receive housing vouchers -- and low-income housing credits to make up the service costs to the operators of the facilities, usually a non-profit organization.

Cuomo admitted that the homeless have a variety of social problems and maintenance is costly if the buildings are not constructed properly. For interim facilities such as WestHelp in Greenburgh New York, he put up what he considers his ideal building -- a low-density facility, no higher than two-stories with no interior corridors or stairwells for people to deface or hide in. The layout also ensures security can see the entire premises from one point. There are community centers in his buildings, too.

"You cannot have enough security guards or enough maintenance men," he added.

In East Flatbush, Cuomo began a maintenance company with the tenants after an opening weekend of parties and violence made him realize they would be less likely to destroy the property if they owned it.

Now, tenants share the cost for any items defaced or destroyed and receive money back when maintenance costs fall below a certain number.

"For the first time in their lives they have a value in the apartment," he said.

The tenants also established rules, which include escorted visitors and parties only in the community room. "If I had given them these rules they would have had me in housing court," he noted.

While subject to rent stabilization, Cuomo has been able to finesse some latitude. He sends around lists of tenants whose rent is in arrears and they quickly pay up out of embarrassment since the other tenants must make up the arrearages.

An advocate of housing homeless families all over the city and not clustering them all in the South Bronx, Cuomo noted old housing cannot be rehabilitated for the same cost because the subcontractors will not give a set number until they open the walls. This interferes with the financing mechanisms as well, he said.

H.E.L.P. is currently building a 14-story facility on the site of the Luchow's parking lot on East 14th Street to house a mixture of families and homeless singles.

Construction costs for projects are financed by a mixture of New York State Housing Finance Agency grants, low income housing credits, passive losses, 42 1 a property tax exemptions, and tax exempt bonds.
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Title Annotation:real estate developer specializes in affordable housing; H.E.L.P. builds transitional housing for homeless and low-income households
Author:Weiss, Lois
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Biography
Date:Dec 16, 1992
Words:771
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