City looks to match landlords with those displaced in Sandy’s wake

November 12, 2012 08:30AM

As the temperature drops, New York City, state and federal officials fear an uptick in the number of those displaced by Hurricane Sandy seeking temporary shelter. In response the government is calling on city landlords to open up their vacant units to those in need, the New York Times reported.

Although most buildings affected by Hurricane Sandy in Manhattan have come back online, many properties in Coney Island and the Rockaways remain without heat or power. And with temporary shelters already crowded and winter on its way, landlords may be able to offer the perfect solution.

“There’s a huge fear that folks are going to be displaced for the medium and long term,” Mathew Wambua, the city’s housing commissioner, said. “We feel a real imperative to have something in place when the second surge comes.”

Some developers and landlords expressed a willingness to help, but also voiced concerns at a meeting in Manhattan on Wednesday with Shaun Donovan, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and again on Thursday during a meeting between state and city officials and members of the Real Estate Board of New York, the Rent Stabilization Association and the state Association for Affordable Housing.

One possibility that was discussed involved a program that matched those in need with a vacant unit that could be paid for using FEMA vouchers — in the New York area, FEMA provides approximately $1,800 a month in rental assistance for up to 18 months. But while $1,800 may pay the rent in Brooklyn and Queens, landlords said that wouldn’t cover the cost in Manhattan.

“People want to do the right thing,” Charles Dorego, senior vice president of Glenwood Management, a major Manhattan landlord, who attended the meetings on behalf of the Real Estate Board, said. “But they don’t want to inherit a pig in a poke. They asked for indemnity, although I don’t see how a government agency can do that.”

But New York’s vacancy rate remains low and many landlords have already offered their vacant units to those seeking shelter, turning the screw even tighter on the city’s housing inventory and leaving the actual number of vacant units difficult to calculate. [NYT]Christopher Cameron