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HPD honors community development.

By the end of this fiscal year, the city will have transferred and sold nearly half the 44,033 units it was holding in inventory when the Giuliani administration came into office.

At a Gracie Mansion ceremony recently honoring the supporters of the National Community Development Initiative (NCDI), Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Richard T. Roberts announced the opening of the process to take even more homes and occupied apartment buildings into the private sector through the Building Blocks! program.

HPD is issuing a request for qualifications (RFQ) to invest approximately $177 million to develop more than 2,500 units under the Neighborhood Redevelopment Program (NRP) and Neighborhood Homes programs over the next three years.

The NRP initiative targets clusters of occupied and vacant buildings for renovation and disposition to community-based not-for-profits to operate as rental housing. Neighborhood Homes concentrates on similar activities with one- to four-family buildings that are eventually sold to owner-occupants.

The NCDI, through the support of 15 major national corporations and foundations, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, provides financial support to these Community Development Corporations (CDC's) nationwide. By 2001, NCDI will have invested over $250 million in 23 cities and some 350 neighborhoods.

In New York City alone, NCDI has invested over $16 million in grants and loans since 1991. Here, most of the money is administered through the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and The Enterprise Foundation. It supports the development of homeownership units, affordable rental housing, childcare and computer training facilities, and retail centers in all five boroughs.

Saluting the representatives of the 70 local non-profits that operate the housing and provide support to the initiatives, and invited to the event, Enterprise Foundation head William Frey declared, "They make it happen on the ground every day."

He also pointed to graphs that showed New York leading the other major cities in the number of units developed. "It's the model," he said, for the other cities.

Happy with an illustration showing New York way out in front in investing and renovating more housing than other large cities across America, and vowing to add it to his collection of charts, Mayor Giuliani relayed a short history of Gracie Mansion relevant to the event.

The land at 87th Street and the East River was purchased and the house was constructed exactly 200 years ago by Archibald Gracie, a partner of Alexander Hamilton. The Wall Streeter apparently wanted it for a quiet, weekend country house.

"He thought this was upstate," said Giuliani, to laughs, with a glance out the dark windows at the park-like grounds and East River. "I'm trying to convince Governor [George] Pataki this is upstate New York. It's something I am not having much success at, but I'm trying."

The city eventually took the house for non-payment of taxes, and after a stint as a warehouse for the Parks Department, it became Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia's home in 1942.

When Giuliani took office, he found the city had taken properties in rem that owed an average of $26,000 to $30,000 in back taxes, and then held them for an average of 19 years.

Through various programs, the city is now returning those buildings to the tax rolls. Early intervention programs try to identify buildings in trouble and assist "the people who live there" with the economics of the building to keep it from falling into the city's hands.

Meanwhile, the City is working with the tenants of the occupied buildings they already own to make them owners and not tenants.

"We are much better off subsidizing ownership than tenancy," Giuliani insisted, perhaps with a nod towards the cooperative and condominium tax abatement programs he favors.

Additionally, when developing housing, Commissioner Roberts encourages retail stores and services in the area to provide jobs and services to the community.

Because the city is now safer, Mayor Giuliani said "People have more confidence in the city, and that the value of their investment will grow."
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Title Annotation:Housing Preservation and Development Commission in New York City
Author:Weiss, Lois
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Feb 10, 1999
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