Thursday, August 30, 2007

Starrett City Receives Buy Out Notice

Tenants of Starrett City, the country's largest federally subsidized complex with 5,881 apartments, received notice on Wednesday August 29 of their owner's intention to buy out of the Mitchell Lama program.

Join tenants and elected officals for a rally and meeting on Wed. Sept. 5th at 7pm at the Christian Cultural Center at Flatlands and Louisianna Avenues (across the street from the Pathmark).

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Knickerbocker Tenants Hit with Buy Out Notice

Along with Castleton (Staten Island) and General Sedgwick (Bronx), Knickerbocker Plaza (Manhattan) was recently hit with a notice that their landlord plans to buy out of the Mithcell Lama program.

Without the cultural history of Genderal Sedgwick -- this development produced hip hop artist Kool Herc -- Knickerbocker lacks the same creative option to avoid buy out. (Sedgwick tenants are working to get their building historic landmark status.) But Knickerbocker tenants are organizing as energetically as ever, and recently secured a piece in the New York Times featuring this photograph.

Support Castleton, Sedgwick, Knickerbocker, Starrett City and all Mitchell Lama tenants -- organize for affordable housing and Mitchell Lama preservation!


Although shocked by our buy out notice --we thought it was due much later --
we remain united in our effort to make sure that all the tenants, not only enhanced voucher-eligible tenants, get the right to remain in their apartments.

Loss of Knickerbocker Plaza from the affordable housing pool would be a tragedy, as would be the loss of other Mitchell Lama developments. I look around my neighborhood and see nothing but luxury housing or walk-up tenements where the median monthly rent is $2,500 and I am shocked. In a way, getting rid of all affordable housing is akin to "financial cleansing." Luxury or market rate housing produces a very transient community. Affordable housing is the strong thread in the fabric of a community – it means stability.

This is a sad day because of the lack of foresight of our city planners. We have worked very hard to get legislation to preserve affordable housing. Unfortunately, immediate financial gain by owners who do not live in our community is superseding the will and ability of our city’s affordable housing planners. Let's keep working to get preservation legislation. It's the tenants’ only hope.

Spitzer signs 421a legislation

Gov. Spitzer signed the 421a legislation on Friday August 24th. Some key provisions are:

-Expansion of the area within which affordable housing must be built to include all Manhattan and more outer borough neighborhoods

-Affordable units must be in the developments themselves -- no off-site certificates allowed

-Special provisions for the Atlantic Yards project, allowing it to claim tax breaks for higher income housing; however, this special treatement may be amended in further legislation

Check out the Pratt Center for Community Development's website for a map and more info:

Thursday, August 23, 2007

About Housing Here and Now

In February 2005, a broad coalition of unions, clergy, community organizations and advocates launched Housing Here and Now, a citywide effort to ensure creation and preservation of decent affordable housing for all poor, working and middle-class New Yorkers. Our initial goal -- much of which we achieved --weas to win commitment from the Mayor to keep the Battery Park City promise to use funds for affordable housing, to provide permanent housing for homeless people living with AIDS, to build support for stronger state rent laws, and to improve housing maintenance code enforcement. In our second and third years, we built on our early wins by taking on reform of the City’s 421a luxury tax break program and challenging irresponsible multifamily lending. Now we are in the midst of our biggest effort to date: a campaign to strengthen our state’s rent laws and repeal vacancy decontrol.

New York City is a renter city: two-thirds of its housing units are rentals. But our stock of low-rent housing is rapidly shrinking. We are projected to lose nearly 140,000 rent-regulated units to high-rent vacancy decontrol between now and 2015 – and this is just one of several mechanisms by which we are losing affordable units. The loss of low-rent housing units is most devastating for already-vulnerable populations: immigrants, people of color, the poor and near-poor, and single women. According to the 2006 American Community Survey, female headed renter households were far more likely to live in poverty than either female headed owner households or male headed renter households. Of 437,790 impoverished households in the New York City area, 223,159 were female headed renter households; only 23,230 were female headed owner households and 29,674 were male headed renter households.

Read about Public Housing in the Gotham Gazette

Did you know NYC was the first US city to build public housing? Learn more in Joe Lamport's recent article, "Hard Times in the Projects."

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Excerpts from Press Coverage on NYCHA Shelter Allowance Increase

Daily News
August 16, 2007
Adam Lisberg

47M Boost to City Housing

Gov. Spitzer yesterday signed a bill giving an extra $47 million a year to the New York City Housing Authority - which may help the cash-strapped agency avoid devastating job cuts.

"We must do everything we can to preserve our affordable housing so New Yorkers don't have to spend their entire paycheck on rent or mortgage payments alone," the governor said.

The bill eliminates a funding disparity under which private landlords were given more funds than public-housing authorities to help subsidize residents on public assistance.

NY Post
August 16, 2007 -- Albany
Kenneth Lovett

City Gain As Spitzer OKs Housing $$

"After a long period of neglect, state government is finally focused on solving the housing crisis that has pushed too many working New Yorkers out of the middle class and prevented those struggling New Yorkers from climbing up into economic security," Spitzer said.

Bloomberg called the new law "a major win" for the city housing authority's 400,000 tenants.

NY Sun
August 16, 2007
Special to the Sun

Housing Authority To Receive Additional $40M

The New York City Housing Authority will receive more than $40 million in additional taxpayer funds, as Governor Spitzer signed into law a bill increasing the state's contribution to the public housing agency.

The legislation calls for the state and city to each increase their contributions to NYCHA by about $11 million a year, with the federal government contributing about $22 million.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Deal reached on 421a luxury tax break program

In an attempt to require more affordable housing from luxury developers receiving tax breaks -- and responding to the efforts of advocates and tenants -- the City Council passed Local Law 58 in December 2006. The law required greater numbers of affordable units from those landlords claiming 421a tax benefits.

In June 2007, the state legislature expanded on this local law, including new outer borough neighborhoods in the "exclusion zone," the area within which affordable units must be included to receive the tax break. The state legislation requires that 20% of the units in these buildings be affordable to households at 60% of the area median income ($42,540 for a household of 4) and that units remain affordable for 40 years. Employees of these buildings must be paid at the City's prevailing wage.

For more information, and for a map of the exclusion zone, check out

421a deal passes the state!

THE NEW YORK TIMES: August 8, 2007

Bill Aims to Spur Housing for the Poor in New York


New York City officials and state legislators have reached an agreement to overhaul a popular tax break for apartment building developers. The aim of the revision is to encourage the construction of tens of thousands of apartments for New Yorkers of limited means.

.It will significantly expand the number of neighborhoods where developers are required to include apartments for low- and moderate-income tenants in new buildings in order to receive tax breaks.

Bertha Lewis, executive director of New York Acorn, an advocacy group for low-income people, said: “This deal means fewer developers will get fewer dollars to build luxury high rises in gentrifying neighborhoods. Not only that but hundreds of millions of dollars will be set aside to build affordable housing.”

Under the 421-a program, begun in the 1970s to spur housing development of any kind, developers have received a 10- to 25-year exemption from the increase in property taxes that results from their work. When the real estate market in Manhattan revived in the 1980’s, the program was modified to require developers in central Manhattan to build not just market-rate apartments but some lower-priced units to obtain the tax break.

Gov. Spitzer closes "unique or peculiar" loophole!

Closure of the "unique or peculiar" loophole -- which allowed landlords of pre-1974 Mitchell Lamas to unfairly deregulate their units upon buy out -- has been a long-time goal of affordable housing activists! Congrats to all NY Is Our Home campaign leaders, Mitchell Lama tenants and housing organizers who helped make this happen!

Governor Spitzer puts kibosh on rent hike loophole
Wednesday, July 18th 2007, 4:00 AM

Gov. Spitzer has closed a loophole that could have let landlords in the Mitchell-Lama housing program jack up rents by thousands of dollars.

"I was so happy I cried," said Sue Susman, president of the tenants association in an upper West Side building where she said a one-bedroom apartment could have jumped from $450 a month to $2,100.

Apartments in former Mitchell-Lama buildings are subject to New York's rent stabilization rules.

Owners of 24 buildings recently told the state Division of Housing they faced "unique and peculiar" circumstances and were entitled to raise rents on almost 5,000 apartments to market rates. Some rents would have tripled.

"Some landlords have attempted to get around the rent stabilization laws by manipulating the so-called unique and peculiar loophole," said Dina Levy of the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board. "Spitzer has done the right thing by closing the loophole and protecting the rights of thousands of tenants."

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Call on Governor Spitzer to pass the NYCHA shelter allowance increase!

Join Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, community groups and other assembly leaders to call on Governor Spitzer to pass the legislation to increase the shelter allowance for NYCHA!

WHEN: FRIDAY AUGUST 10th, arrive at 10:45AM

WHERE: Steps of City Hall

WHY: This legislation (A7905/S4329) would enable NYCHA to receive the same shelter allowance payments for residents who receive public assistance that are now provided to private landlords. This increase would be a huge step towards closing NYCHA's budget deficit.