New city rule requires luxury rental buildings to house homeless families

Vacant affordable housing units across the city will now be open for shelter families

Feb.February 19, 2020 09:15 AM
A rendering of The Dime at 209 Havemeyer Street in Brooklyn (Credit: Fogarty Finger)

A rendering of The Dime at 209 Havemeyer Street in Brooklyn (Credit: Fogarty Finger)

Homeless families will be able to apply for housing in luxury buildings thanks to a new city rule.

Developers who are unable to fill affordable units in their luxury buildings through the housing lottery will be required to provide those apartments to shelter residents, Bloomberg reported. The rule applies to developers who received tax breaks in exchange for setting aside affordable units.

About 200 vacant units were eligible as of Friday, Bloomberg reported, citing data from the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. The city will pay the building owners to lease the apartments.

It is the latest effort to address the city’s homeless crisis. In December, the city passed a requirement for developments of 41 or more units that receive financial assistance from the city to set aside at least 15 percent of units for homeless tenants.

“We saw an opportunity to provide high-quality, permanent housing to some of our homeless neighbors, and we’re seizing it,” Matthew Creegan, a spokesman for HPD, told Bloomberg.

Luxury developments with units set aside for middle-income families — such as Essex Crossing on the Lower East Side and The Dime in Williamsburg — are most likely to be affected, Bloomberg reported. Those middle-income units are only slightly below market-rate rents, so potential tenants sometimes don’t realize they are eligible or prefer not to go through the lengthy approval process.

But a spokesperson for The Dime project said its affordable units are likely to be filled by the usual lottery process before HPD makes them available to shelter residents. “The developers of The Dime believe that given the number of applications, there will be more than enough qualified candidates to fill the 54 apartments,” the spokesperson said, noting that 12,500 applications have been received since the lottery opened Jan. 28.

A spokesperson for Delancey Street Associates, the owner of Essex Crossing, said the development has “zero vacancies” among middle income units and has a “significant” waitlist of qualified tenants.

“We have no reason to believe that Essex Crossing will be impacted by this new policy,” the spokesperson said.

Developers and landlord advocates do not see an upside to the new city requirement, and some builders might consider pulling out of the program, according to Jordan Bardach, COO at landlord consultant City5.

“The developers who agreed to enter their property into a lottery process — this is not what they were signing up for,” Bardach told the publication. [Bloomberg] — David Jeans

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