Delay in HARP deals reveals New York City’s vacancy problem

December 28, 2010 02:47PM

It’s been close to two years since New York City’s Department of Housing and Preservation and Development unveiled its $20 million Housing Asset Renewal Program to turn unused condominium units into middle-income housing, but no HARP deals have been signed to date. Though HPD says several developers are close to signing, housing prices haven’t fallen dramatically and many are waiting to see if the market improves. “It’s a good idea, but the timing was a little off,” developer Greg O’Connell, who has developed much of Red Hook, told City Limits. “I think the market now has begun to change, and I think the developers who have held on during these bad times think their properties can be absorbed into the market with no new products actually built right now.” Developers may also be hesitant to sign on to HARP because the tax incentives aren’t financially advantageous for most buildings, an anonymous source told City Limits.

The delay in the program sheds light on the glut of vacant units in New York City. As of this Dec. 7, the Department of Buildings listed 708 buildings for which they had received complaints of stalled construction. These numbers, according to City Limits, illustrate the fact that New York City doesn’t have a firm grasp on how many vacant buildings are in the city. Intro 48, a bill introduced by Council member Melissa Mark-Viverito, would require the city to do a vacancy census, modeled after a census conducted in Boston. However the proposal to mandate such a survey has stalled here because City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is opposed to it, since she feels that collecting the data would be too expensive. [City Limits]