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Addressing city's affordable housing crisis.

Everyone agrees that New York City must increase its housing supply--and especially its supply of housing affordable to working, low-income and homeless residents.

The worsening housing situation combined with the recent recession has pushed many families beyond the limits of their resources.

This summer, Mayor Bloomberg began to address New York City's housing needs with the start of the most significant housing initiative since the 1980s, his "New Housing Marketplace."

We welcome this initiative, which, if fully implemented, could produce and preserve 65,000 housing units during the next five years.

But to fully meet the ever-growing demand for housing, we must insure that sufficient resources are devoted to the problem, that unnecessary regulatory hurdles are eliminated, and that no new barriers to development be erected.

While we welcome and support the Mayor's efforts to reform and streamline the Department of Buildings, regulatory reform is a complex issue that is beyond the scope of this article.

However, NYS Association for Affordable Housing members are concerned that legislation introduced in the City Council would actually result in new barriers to development.

Currently pending are bills that would require that the Community Board and Council be notified of any tax lot changes or applications for building or demolition permits.

Another bill would eliminate the self-certification of plans to the Department of Buildings, adding significantly to the workload of this already overstressed agency.

It is not clear whether these bills are responses to perceived failures in current practices or efforts to slow unwanted growth in specific neighborhoods.

By lengthening an already complicated process, these bills would add to the costs of development, costs which will ultimately be passed along to the renter or homeowner.

Another Council bill would apply neighborhood median income rather than area median income in determining income eligibility for New York City funded projects.

The effect of this proposal would be to dramatically lower income eligibility in certain communities, which would cause a precipitous drop in the number of new units that could be built by requiring more subsidy for each.

It would also severely curtail the growth in neighborhood economic diversity that has been a welcome side effect of the City's housing efforts to date.

But government reform, however important to spur investment in affordable housing, will not be enough.

Two and a half years ago, NYSAFAH joined Housing First! (www.housingfirst. net)--a coalition of community, business, civic, labor and religious organizations--to advance a 10-year, $10 billion plan to build and save more than 185,000 homes.

The plan represents the consensus of housing industry leaders, advocates and policy experts on the level of effort required to relieve chronic housing problems.

Unfortunately, the city's housing efforts are being held back by the poor economy and budget crisis.

As the city's economic and budget situation improve, we must expand the scope of the New York City Mayor's initiative to reach the goals of the Housing First! plan.

This means that, in the years ahead, we need to create more housing for working New Yorkers and not overlook the housing needs of our vulnerable neighbors--senior citizens, homeless families and individuals with special needs.

We applaud Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council for repeatedly demonstrating their commitment to providing housing for all New Yorkers, and urge that New York's successful programs be continued and expanded.

At the same time we hope that the Council, in addressing other important social needs, be mindful of the unintended consequences to affordable housing development.
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Author:Carr, Bernie
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 12, 2003
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