Private landlords better sell their “cluster sites”: mayor

City Hall willing to use eminent domain for owners who resist

Dec.December 12, 2017 12:45 PM

3001 Briggs Avenue in the Bronx and commissioner of the NYC Dept. of Homeless Services Steven Banks

Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to finance nonprofits that would buy private apartments set aside for homeless New Yorkers under the city’s controversial cluster-site program and convert them into affordable housing. And he’s willing to use eminent domain against property owners who do not cooperate.

The mayor on Tuesday plans to announce the initiative, which is designed to help address the festering homelessness problem while also fulfilling his pledge to create and preserve more affordable housing, the New York Times reported.

The city is targeting buildings where more than 50 percent of the units are occupied by homeless people, which works out to roughly 800 apartments across 25 to 30 buildings in the Bronx. The plan could place roughly 3,000 people into permanent housing.

The total cost of the proposal was not immediately clear.

De Blasio said in a statement that City Hall has to “think creatively and be bold.”

“We’re fast-tracking the transition from shelter to higher-quality, permanently affordable housing for New Yorkers caught in the grips of our city’s affordability crisis,” the mayor said.

The cluster-site program began in 2000 under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and has expanded with the city’s homeless population. But over the past 17 years, landlords have received rent rates far above the market norm from city subsidies. At the same time, many of the apartments were in poor and dangerous conditions.

A report released two years ago by the city Department of Investigation showed the city was paying an average of $2,451 a month for cluster apartments in neighborhoods where rents ranged from $528 to $1,200 per month. [NYT]Rich Bockmann

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