Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Gov. Cuomo's State of the State on Affordable Housing 2013

Governor Andrew Cuomo included affordable housing in his State of the State speech   on January 2, 2013.  He proposes to build or preserve 14,000 affordable units to remedy the shortage of 356,000 units just in the downstate area alone.   He supports the 44 developments that remain in the Mitchell-Lama program. He also praises the underfunded "Tenant Protection Unit" at (D)HCR, which agency has yet to promulgate serious regulations to implement the changes tenants won in June 2011.  

Send him a letter thanking him for including housing, and asking for strong regulations to implement the changes tenants have won.  (A sample letter is at the bottom of this article.)


NY RISING
2013 State of the State
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

EXCERPT on AFFORDABLE HOUSING

Create the $1 Billion House NY Program

Under Governor Cuomo, New York has taken a regional approach to problem-solving and economic growth; a perspective that is essential when it comes to meeting the need for safe and quality affordable housing for all New Yorkers.

In downstate regions, low vacancy rates are accompanied by high demand and high costs, such as in New York City, where 1 in 3 residents spend over half of their income on rent.121 Across areas of Long Island and New York City, Superstorm Sandy has only made this challenge tougher.

At the same time, some areas upstate have the opposite problem, as communities with vacant and abandoned homes pose significant and very different policy and development challenges.

Since 2011, the State has played a key role in the development of affordable housing across New York as both a source of economic and community development. In fact, New York’s housing programs and investments have strengthened during the economic crisis.

Through responsible financing and affordable loan products, New Yorkers have more housing opportunities, healthier homes, and more vibrant communities. Development activities have directly stimulated local economic development and job growth. State agencies, led by NYS Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), have improved customer service and expanded affordable and supportive housing preservation.

This has resulted in HCR-funded projects being engaged in $3.65 billion worth of construction since 2011, producing an estimated 45,000 full-time jobs during construction.

In addition, to better protect tenants, Governor Cuomo strengthened rent regulation for the first time in decades and created the Tenant Protection Unit to investigate fraud and prosecute landlords who fail to maintain essential services for any of the state’s one million rent-regulated tenants.

Starting in 2013, we will take the next critical steps to address New York State’s affordable housing challenge; investing $1 billion to preserve and create more than 14,000 quality affordable housing units statewide by reallocating and making better use of existing funds.

Investing in Affordable Housing Statewide

The need for affordable housing has never been greater. Approximately 2.9 million households in New York State are financially insecure in their homes, paying in excess of 30 percent of their incomes for rent or their mortgage. There is a documented shortage of 191,000 affordable units available to extremely low-income New York State households outside of New York City, along with a 356,000-unit shortage of apartments in New York City with monthly rents below $600.

Governor Cuomo will take a historic step to address this challenge by launching the state’s largest housing program in at least 15 years. This initiative will create or preserve an estimated 5,600 housing units by investing in the most successful affordable housing programs and creating new programs to meet unfilled needs. Taken together, these investments will help tens of thousands of New Yorkers realize the dream of quality affordable housing while creating jobs and strengthening communities across the state.

Revitalizing New York’s Mitchell-Lama Affordable Housing Program

In addition to creating new housing opportunities, we must also preserve those that already exist. The State’s Mitchell-Lama program was created in 1955 to provide affordable housing for middle-income residents, and there are now 44 Mitchell-Lama projects with over 10,400 housing units.

To revitalize this important supply of affordable housing and focus on the needs of these developments, the Mitchell-Lama asset portfolio will be transferred from Empire State Development to NYS Homes and Community Renewal. As a result of this shift, HCR will be able to refinance these housing projects and leverage additional private and public funding to rehabilitate and update 8,700 housing units that are suffering from deferred maintenance and other physical deficiencies.

The REDC Opportunity Agenda

The Regional Economic Development Councils have redefined the way New York invests in jobs and economic growth by putting in place a community-based, bottom-up approach. A key component of Governor Cuomo's approach to economic development, the Regional Councils are public-private partnerships made up of local experts and stakeholders from business, higher education, local government and nonprofit organizations.

Each Regional Council has developed an innovative plan for job creation and economic development, and they have the opportunity to apply for resources to support their regional priorities through an expedited and streamlined process that provides access to dozens of existing programs. Just last month, the Governor announced $738 million in economic development funding based on the Regional Council strategic plans.
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SAMPLE LETTER TO THE GOVERNOR: 

Dear Governor Cuomo:

Thank you for focusing on the crucial need for affordable housing in your State of the State address.  Given that lack of affordable housing,  I urge that you initiate additional tenant need protections  this year: 
  • temporary (not permanent) MCI or Individual Apartment Improvement increases, 
  • an RGB accountable to NYC voters,  and 
  • limiting rent increases in both preferential rent and rent controlled units to RGB annual guidelines. 
I further urge that you ensure the promulgation of strong regulations to enforce the laws tenants won in June 2011, and full staffing and funding for the Tenant Protection Unit that you hailed in your address. 

Your report noted that NYC is short 365,000 affordable units. So in addition to the 14,000 affordable units you promise to build or conserve I hope you will institute something like the very successful Mitchell-Lama program to create those units.

Most importantly, we need to expand rent regulation to ensure more apartments are affordable, and stem the reduction in New York City's affordable housing stock by abolishing vacancy destabilization.