Diving into Affordable Housing, Part IV

Moderator Charles V. Bagli of the New York Times told the audience and the panel that the Real Estate Board of New York had hoped that, with what it perceived as a pro development mayor in Michael Bloomberg, the city tax system could have been overhauled. 

But that didn’t happen.  Asked Bagli, what recommendations concerning the tax laws that affect real estate did the panel, convened last night at the New York City Bar Association to discuss the intersection of New York affordable housing and politics, recommend?

Panelist Donald Capoccia, president of the New York State Association for Affordable Housing and principal of BFC Construction Corp., said that tax assessment practices are “totally inequitable.”

He said he wasn’t only referring to sometimes controversial J-51 assessments for performing apartment building renovations, which expire, but also fixed assessments. “The inequality . . . needs to be resolved,” he said.

Bagli noted that 70% of affordable housing stock is rental, but the Hunters Point project—see the big news on Quidnunc from earlier today—expects to have a different, owner-oriented balance when it is fully developed.

NYC Housing Preservation and Development’s Leora Jontef said that affordable housing has always been, from the tenants’ perspective, a mix of subsidy and affordability. She said it’s a tough development/investment call:  when there is more of the former, there is automatically more of the latter, but subsidies can't be limitless.

Panelist Matthew G. Lasner, Assistant Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Hunter College, said that not only is New York City’s commitment to affordable housing unique, but so is the city's commitment to make it apply for various groups—not just low income, but middle-income families as well.

But panelist Benjamin Dulchin, Executive Director of Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development Inc., pointed to the emphasis on high-end residential development in general, and said it serves its customers but also misses the point.  “Housing is not necessarily about developing the neighborhood, it is about stabilizing the neighborhood”--a point, he noted earlier, had to be encouraged with public incentives.

Moderator Bagli asked what Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s priorities should be when he goes to Washington for federal aid. 

Prof. Lasner responded that he should seek community block development programs, more money for the New York City Housing Authority, and funding for below-market rate interest mortgages.

Ben Dulchin concluded by noting that the new mayor should send his liaison to the offices of New York Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillebrand and demand what other states have received for rebuilding—citing the Gulf Coast states—to produce more housing stock here.

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