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421a tax-abatement certificates: key financial resource for developers of affordable housing.

Fueled by the broadening change in housing finance arising from the increasingly refined rental market, confidence in the value of 421 a negotiable tax-abatement certificates has emerged even stronger and has become a key financial resource for developers of affordable housing projects in New York.

Along with the prosperity of Manhattan and the rise of affordable rentals throughout the city, the revived 421 a tax-abatement program has created win-win situations for developers of both affordable housing and high-end residential projects, and New York City's low- and moderate-income families.

Constructed as an incentive for investors to finance new projects and rehabilitation for low income renters, the 421a tax-abatement certificate program offers developers a partial tax exemption for building south of 96th Street and north of 14th Street in Manhattan - the "exclusionary zone" - for the construction of affordable rentals anywhere in the city. For each affordable rental apartment constructed in the outer boroughs or outside the prime Manhattan areas, the builder gets five negotiable tax-abatement certificates. To obtain the five negotiable certificates, the apartment buildings must be free of mortgage debt, which is what keeps its rents so low. Other developers building market-rate housing in the "exclusionary zone" are able to buy these certificates, the price of which are set off against the cost of the affordable rental units.

The Manhattan builder is then entitled to a 10-year tax abatement on one apartment, plus up to three years for the construction period. This amounts to full exemption from property taxes on the project for the first two years after construction. The tax is based on 20 percent of the assessment two years later, on 40 percent two years after that, and so on until the building's full tax status is achieved.

For example, in the current superheated residential market, Manhattan builders on average pay about $17,000 to $18,000 per certificate, and occasionally as much as $20,000. The builder of a 100-unit high-end residential building would save about $3 million in current dollars by purchasing 100 certificates for about $1.8 million ($18,000 a unit).

Leewood Real Estate Group has already successfully used the revival of the 421a - which was created in the 1980's, but fell out of economic favor during the doldrums of the early 1990's - in two of its most recent development projects, bringing forth affordable housing in Staten Island and The Bronx.

In Staten Island, Leewood has constructed 180 low-rise apartments on the North Shore. The three developments - Nicholas Manor in Port Richmond and Harbor Manor in Mariner's Harbor - boast a total of 72 one- and two-bedroom townhomes, with Tompkins Court in Clifton coming in at 108 one- and two-bedroom townhomes. Through the 421a program, this project has been tied to the construction of 900 luxury apartments on Manhattan's Upper East Side.

In July, Leewood began constructing River Court and Gerard Court, a 252-unit affordable housing project in The Bronx, using the combination of New York City Housing Development Corporation bond financing and 421a tax abatement certificates. It is the second largest project in New York City's history to use the 421a tax certificate program.

Looking ahead into 1999, 421a tax-abatement certificates will be an important resource for creating affordable rental housing in New York City. As the residential market continues to be strong and the rental climate holding steady, the production of affordable housing will continue to be on the rise. We will see more of this financing technique and developers of low- and high-end residential projects alike will continue to benefit, and more importantly, affordable housing will be available to New York City's economic "backbone" - low- and moderate-income families, creating the almost unheard of win-win situation.
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Title Annotation:Spotlight on Residential Real Estate
Author:Lee, R. Randy
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Feb 24, 1999
Words:612
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