BY JORDAN GIBBONS
The City is looking to transform abandoned lots in South Jamaica into affordable rental and homeownership opportunities with some new programs that offer the land at a premium.
Late last year, the City released a Request for Qualifications for its New Infill Homeownership Opportunities Program and the Neighborhood Construction Program, which are expected to help maximize resources and encourage neighborhood-focused development.
The Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development recently released a list of 170 locations throughout the City – 17 in South Jamaica – where the lots will be conveyed to a qualified developer for $1 if they can create more affordable housing opportunities.
NIHOP is designed to create new one-to-four-family homes and affordable condominiums and cooperatives at 15 units or less. There are eight lots in South Jamaica, located sporadically on 164th Street, 107th Avenue and Union Hall Street, which are proposed to fall into this structure.
Lots that are applied to the NCP aggregate sites to develop affordable rental housing of up to 30 units to achieve economies of scale in the remediation, development, financing and operation of scattered infill lots. The other nine lots, located on Union Hall Street, Guy R. Brewer Boulevard and New York Boulevard, are planned for this program.
According to the City, developers will be selected based on their experience and capacity to develop the sites as affordable housing. Once a qualified developer and plan is selected, the $1 price tag will reduce the amount of direct taxpayer subsidy needed for a specific affordable housing project. All of the units in both programs will be income-restricted.
The concept of the City selling off abandoned lots and buildings has been around for decades, but there are concerns that the process will be handled in the same fashion as it was when that land was considered a burden.
Moses Gates, director of planning and community development with the nonprofit Association for Neighborhood Housing Development, said that the City acquires the land after there is a tax lien foreclosure on the properties.
“They are really trying to drive production according to the old formula from the ’80s,” Gates said. “But land is a resource now, not really a liability.”
HPD has disposed of most of its vacant land and is now trying to find a way to stimulate development on the smaller plots, according to Gates.
Gates said that with a smaller plot of land, the zoning is lower so it is harder for a developer to make the financing work.
“We need to update how we treat this land like its 2015, not the 1980s,” he said. “Give them to a nonprofit that will keep it affordable, not private developers to own.”
The deadline for RFQ submissions is Feb. 19 and HPD anticipates finalizing the selected sponsor’s list by the summer. For more information, visit www1.nyc.gov/site/hpd/developers/rfp-rfq-rfo.page.
Reach Jordan Gibbons at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 123, firstname.lastname@example.org or @jgibbons2.