A top de Blasio official has been calling developers of affordable rental buildings about a new regulation that would require them to house homeless families—the administration’s latest attempt to stem the city’s record-setting shelter population.
Vicki Been, commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, recently made the calls to a handful of developers who received a now-defunct tax exemption called 421-a, according to sources with knowledge of the calls. The tax exemption requires that at least 20% of a building’s units be enrolled in the city’s affordable housing program.
“This is the latest reform in our effort to address the homeless crisis we face,” said an HPD spokeswoman in a statement. “Addressing homelessness is a moral imperative. These new marketing procedures are another new tool we are using to help reduce the burden for families who are being forced out of their homes.”
The city has struggled with a surging homeless population that topped a record 60,000 this month, with families with children making up two-thirds of that total. And earlier this year, domestic violence surpassed eviction to become the No. 1 reason for being admitted to a shelter, according to Crain’s.
While it is not unprecedented for the city’s top affordable housing official to personally call developers to inform them of a new policy, Been’s entreaties are a sign that the administration is serious about getting this one off the ground quickly and is willing to exert more pressure on companies to comply.
In preparation for the effort, the administration altered a number of rules governing which New Yorkers are eligible to take an affordable apartment, according to a report in The Real Deal last week.
Generally speaking, the affordable apartments created in exchange for the tax break are available by lottery. And on average, they serve New York households considered low-income, which would equate to a family of three making $48,960 a year.
However, developers have long been required to try to fill half the affordable apartments with residents from the local community board, as well as reserve slots for New Yorkers with disabilities. Under the new rules, the city hopes developers can fill half of the local spots with households currently in a shelter, but whose last known address was in the community.
If these households can’t afford the rent, it will be subsidized by a city or federal program, according to the city housing department.
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