The Real Deal New York

Michael Stoler: That’s the ticket

Affordable housing lotteries going strong

January 31, 2011
By Michael Stoler

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Rents are rising. Concessions are on the wane, and the vacancy rate in certain neighborhoods remains below 2 percent. Nevertheless, New Yorkers are winning lotteries for affordable apartments.

Take this example: Recently, a young woman ran into me in the street and said she had watched one of my recent shows and “won the lottery.” I didn’t know what she meant until she explained that she learned about an affordable housing lottery from the show and lives in a new apartment building in Lower Manhattan as a result. (The lotteries determine priority in the application process, but people must still qualify.)

If you are in the market for a rental in a new building in many neighborhoods in Manhattan, a studio starts at approximately $2,500 to $3,500; a one-bedroom is $2,800 to $4,000; and a two-bedroom goes for $4,500 to $7,500.

Yet if you can qualify financially, you might be surprised to learn that you have until Feb. 7 to submit an application for a new apartment in Clinton Park, Two Trees’ building at 770 11th Avenue. The tower has 44 affordable rental apartments under construction: four studios, 30 one-bedrooms and 10 two-bedrooms. The monthly rent for an affordable studio is just $626; one-bedroom rents range from $523 to $672; and two-bedrooms go for $640 to $818 per month.

These apartments are available to households earning between 40 percent and 60 percent of the “area median income,” which is $79,600 for a household of four.

What’s more, Clinton Park is just one of the more than 2,000 new affordable rental apartments under construction in the five boroughs, a bright spot in what is otherwise a slow building period. Many of the affordable apartments in Manhattan and Brooklyn have been provided through the city’s Housing Development Corporation and the state’s 80/20 program. Under the 80/20 program, a new rental housing development will set aside 20 percent of the apartments in a market-rate building for low-income tenants. Rents for the low-income apartments generally range from approximately $620 for a studio to $922 for three-bedroom apartments. All apartments are subject to rent stabilization.

Over the past two years more than 700 affordable apartments were made available in the new rental buildings on the far West Side of Manhattan. In addition to Clinton Park, about 180 affordable apartments will become available in the Related Companies’ new 60-story mixed-use apartment building at 440 West 42nd Street.

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The odds of winning a lottery for affordable apartment applicants is much better than winning the Mega Millions jackpot, but it’s by no means a sure thing. David Dishy, executive vice president for acquisitions and investment at L & M Development and manager of the New York Affordable Housing Preservation Fund, said on my show that many developments in the outer boroughs receive 15,000 applications for about 200 affordable housing units.

The city’s strategy on affordable housing has also shifted recently. Last month, Mayor Bloomberg and other city officials launched an initiative to focus on preserving affordable housing given the deteriorating conditions in some buildings. As an example of this, Stellar Management, in cooperation with city and state agencies, purchased Tivoli Towers in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. Immediately after the closing, Stellar Management began a two-year restoration effort on the 33-story, 320-unit property, which has not been renovated since the 1970s.

Also last month, city and federal agencies joined with the Arker Companies, Wells Fargo and Freddie Mac to rehabilitate two affordable multifamily properties on Staten Island, preserving 430 apartments for low-income tenants. Collectively known as Concord Seaside, the Concord Court and Seaside Plaza apartment complexes are in the Park Hill and Fort Worth neighborhoods.

Concord Seaside is part of Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan, an $8.4 billion initiative to finance 165,000 affordable housing units for half a million New Yorkers by 2014. To date, the plan has funded the creation or preservation of 110,390 units across the five boroughs.

Although not as common as affordable rentals, there are programs to help low-, moderate- and middle-income New Yorkers own a home. In Manhattan, 22 cooperative apartments are available for sale at 1885 Lexington Avenue in East Harlem. The building has five one-bedrooms, 13 two-bedrooms and four three-bedrooms for New York State residents. Prices range from $45,329 to $199,988 for a one-bedroom; $84,099 to $350,000 for a two-bedroom; and $375,000 to $400,000 for a three-bedroom.

It’s clear that despite the down market, public and private partnerships continue to keep affordable housing alive.

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