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What NYC needs to do to build more affordable housing

There are many ways the city could provide more affordable housing to low-income renters.

1. Subsidize rents. More unconventional strategies include "buy-down" programs sponsored by corporations, "in which the city would purchase empty high-end apartments and then subsidize their rents for lower-income families with the help of corporate funding." In Denver, Chipotle is the first "employer partner" to try its hand at this. Atlanta has announced its intention to try similar partnerships.

2. Develop nonprofit financing. Under the Bloomberg administration, the Bowery Residents Committee (BRC) built low-income housing at Landing Road as part of its building that housed its shelter. It took the surplus from the shelter to operate the private low-income apartments. BRC has also begun the Way Home Fund, a goal to raise $7 million as a revolving fund to kick off a pipeline of projects similar to Landing Road. The organization believes that amount is sufficient to have a new building like Landing Road open every 18 to 24 months.

Of 193 deals closed during the first two and a half years of de Blasio’s term, ANHD (Association for Neighborhood Housing and Development) found that for-profit developers dominated new construction deals, receiving 74 percent of those deals, which contained 80 percent of total units. In many of these deals, developers reached out to the administration for financing, but looking just at the cases in which the city actively solicited a developer with a Request for Proposal (RFP) to build on public land, the picture is even more stark: Of 10 projects on city-owned land, nine went to for-profits and only one went to a non-profit. Although some development teams are a joint partnership between a nonprofit and a for-profit developer, ANHD categorized each joint-venture as either nonprofit or for-profit based on which was benefiting from the mortgage.

Since 2006, 21 supportive housing projects received $59.4 million from the New York City Acquisition Fund (NYCAF). Since its founding, NYCAF has built or preserved 11,226 affordable and supportive units. More than a decade ago, foundations, commercial lending institutions, and the City of New York launched the Acquisition Fund, which offers flexible bridge loans for developers to buy land. Developers can then unlock government funds dedicated to the construction of both affordable housing as well as supportive housing.

3. Canada amended its National Housing Act in 1973 to launch the national nonprofit housing supply program. In addition to financial subsidy, the program provided assistance to help community groups, church organizations, labor unions, and municipal governments become sophisticated housing developers.Canada's third-sector housing includes three types of organizations. The "public nonprofits" are housing companies established by local government. The "private nonprofits" are established by church groups, unions, and community organizations. The most interesting innovation is the third -- the nonprofit, non-equity housing cooperative. Unlike the other two, members of the cooperatives own and manage their projects. Units cannot be sold or even passed on to a friend. When someone moves out, another family from the cooperative's waiting list moves in. Residents take no equity with them after they leave, but there is no escalating entry price to be paid, either. Canada's housing cooperatives are a democratically owned and managed version of subsidized housing.

4. Encourage Community Land Trusts (CLTs). CLTs are similar to the housing cooperatives established in Canada. CLTs differ around the country but basically they own the land and often the buildings which are then rented to low-income renters.

5. My favorite - The city should buy back Battery Park City for a dollar which is in the original agreement signed by Mayor Koch and Governor Carey. Then the city should sell all the commercial property and use those funds to build low-income, permanent housing.


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