BY LYNN EDMONDS
Housing advocates are frustrated that $2 billion dollars Gov. Andrew Cuomo promised to combat homelessness and support affordable housing in his April 1 budget are not available yet.
As long as the $2 billion is not released, 1,360 potential units remain in limbo, a study by the New York State Association for Affordable Housing found.
But the Governor counters that he is meeting benchmarks to achieve his goal of creating 6,000 units of supportive housing, a low-cost housing that comes with social services and is considered to be one of the most effective means of combating homelessness, over a five year period.
His office is moving forward on 1,200 units this year, putting them exactly on target, a spokesperson for the Governor added.
Nonetheless, developers and housing advocates are eager to see the full $2 billion earmarked in this year’s budget dispersed.
The money cannot be unlocked until Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) and State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (D-Suffolk County) reach an agreement, or memorandum of understanding, on how it will be spent. But since they didn’t reach that agreement by the end of the legislative session on June 16, a large question mark remains as to when it will happen.
The uncertainty puts developers across the state and throughout the five boroughs in a precarious position, NYSAFAH says. Those that were counting on state funding to help make their projects economically feasible are now stalled.
NYFASAH CEO Jolie Milstein says that as long as that $2 billion is not released, future projects can’t take shape. The 1,360 number “really underrepresents the universe of projects that may never get built,” she added.
NYSAFAH could not give a precise number for the units in Queens that might be at risk due to the unavailability of funding.
Cuomo’s office said that though they were proud of their accomplishments regarding supportive housing so far, they were still pushing to reach an agreement on the remaining funds.
“It was Governor Cuomo who made and secured the unprecedented $20 billion five-year commitment to affordable and homeless housing. The first $150 subject to the MOU has been released and we’re eager to reach an agreement on the balance. We urge the legislature to join us in keeping these projects moving and helping to ensure every New Yorker has a safe, decent and affordable place to call home,” a spokesperson for the Governor said.
An Assembly Democrat confirmed published reports that say that negotiations stalled on the MOU because of disagreements over how the two billion would be spent.
Heastie wanted $100 million to go to NYCHA.
“NYCHA has been neglected by the federal government, by the state government and by the city level of government for well over 20, maybe even 30 years,” Assemblyman Keith Wright (D-Manhattan), Chair of the Housing Committee, told Politico.
The Republican-controlled state Senate, on the other hand, did not want to sign off on the MOU until there was a reinstatement of the 421-a tax break for the developers, an Assembly Democrat told the Queens Tribune. But Democrats in the Assembly do not want to reinstate 421-a – unless it is accompanied by stronger protections for rent-stabilized and rent-controlled apartments. As such, multiple affordable housing questions may be resolved – or not resolved – simultaneously.
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Ellinoamerikana