Developers’ donations hurt affordable housing: OPINION

October 28, 2013 10:15AM

The city’s dearth of affordable housing can be directly tied to campaign finance laws that allow real estate developers to make huge campaign contributions, according to the director of the city’s oldest tenants’ union.

“This year, after receiving tons of money from well-placed donors, the governor and members of the [New York] State Legislature quietly gave away millions of your tax dollars to developers of luxury towers,” Jaron Benjamin of the Metropolitan Council on Housing wrote in an op-ed, referring to a 421a tax abatement given to five New York City developers including Extell Development and Silverstein Properties. The dollars, Benjamin argues, could have been used to repair derelict apartment buildings or to give rent subsidies to people in need.

“The deal was so bad that it is being looked at by the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption,” Benjamin wrote in the opinion piece, published in the New York Daily News.

A recent Metropolitan Council report found that four of the five developers used campaign finance loopholes and high contribution limits to give over $1.5 million to state elected officials, political parties and real estate-backed political action committees between 2008 and 2012. Governor Andrew Cuomo, who signed the 421a legislation, was the largest beneficiary, raking in $150,000 from the four developers in campaign donations last year.

“A handful of real estate developers winning such a huge giveaway at a time where there are more homeless people in New York City than ever before, and too many families paying too much of their income on housing, is a reflection of just how broken the current campaign finance system is,” Benjamin wrote.

The real estate industry has also had a major impact in the city elections this season, in particular in the City Council races, as The Real Deal reported. [NYDN]Hiten Samtani