Developers can finally start building senior housing under a new city program

HPD to release term sheet for AIRs program
By Kathryn Brenzel | July 10, 2019 05:39PM

Earlier this year, some developers griped that HPD hadn’t yet accepted applications for the program (Credit: iStock)

Earlier this year, some developers griped that HPD hadn’t yet accepted applications for the program (Credit: iStock)

Developers will soon be able to move forward with projects under a program that grants density and height boosts in exchange for setting aside housing for seniors in their buildings.

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development plans to issue a term sheet for privately financed senior housing projects under the Affordable Independent Residences for Seniors program. AIRs, which launched in March 2016 as part of the Zoning for Quality and Affordability text amendment, allows developers to increase the scale of their projects if they dedicate a portion of their projects to seniors.

Earlier this year, some developers griped that HPD hadn’t yet accepted applications for the program. Alvin Schein, partner at Seiden & Schein, said the delay was due to the agency’s efforts to lower the required income threshold for such projects. Under the city’s zoning resolution, units must be set aside for elderly residents making at or below 80 percent of the area median income. Schein had advocated for the AMI requirement to remain at 80 percent, which is ultimately what appears in HPD’s term sheet.

“If [developers] are getting private financing, they want to get rents up to the statutory limit,” he said. He noted that projects in certain neighborhoods might have to adjust rents for residents who are earning below 80 percent threshold, but they will do so based on the market, “not because HPD said so.”

According to the term sheet, which will be publicly released this week, at least 10 units in an AIRs project must be dedicated to senior tenants. The units must be rent stabilized and comply with Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards, which is more stringent than the city’s building code.

“We’re excited to launch this new financing program dedicated to projects that will create high-quality rent stabilized affordable homes for seniors throughout New York City,” Matthew Creegan, a spokesperson for HPD said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the agency is still in a state of transition. HPD Commissioner Louise Carroll is only on her third month in office. In May, Mayor Bill de Blasio tapped Carroll to replace Maria Torres-Springer, who stepped down in March.