For many minority developers, building the necessary capacity and experience to win a steady stream of work in New York City has been an uphill battle. Now, some feel that the city is trying to add an extra hurdle just as they are able to successfully compete.
A group of developers has called on the City Council to withdraw or amend a bill that would limit the transfer of city-owned land intended for affordable housing to nonprofit developers.
In a letter to Brooklyn Council member Brad Lander, the bill’s sponsor, the developers argue that the measure would “disenfranchise Black, Brown and women-led for-profit development companies and relegate people of color to being merely tenants and clients of nonprofit organizations within the affordable housing world.”
In the bill’s current form, exceptions to the new regulations would only be granted if no qualified nonprofits applied or if the property were sold under a state law. Lander has said that the goal is to keep these properties “affordable in perpetuity” by transferring them to entities less inclined to sell the buildings once affordability agreements expire.
But the letter, signed by two dozen executives from affordable developers — including BRP Companies, Lemor Development Group, SMJ Development and CB Emmanuel Realty — argues that the legislation unilaterally discounts the performance records of for-profit developers. They argue that it also ignores the fact that many developers of color opted to build careers in affordable housing because “the traditional paths through multi-generational family wealth and business relationships have been closed.”
Lander said he has received the letter and looks forward to meeting with its authors.
“I see this legislation as part of a broader shift in the focus of our affordable housing development towards non-profits, cooperatives, and other forms of ‘social housing’ that will increase the ability for BIPOC New Yorkers to become homeowners and to access stable, affordable housing,” Lander said in an email.
But Kirk Goodrich, president of Monadnock Development and one of the letter’s authors, said the bill doesn’t serve the future tenants of these projects, and that it unfairly closes off opportunities to minority-led for-profit development firms.
“What we were told is, ‘Listen you need capacity, you need a track record,’” said Goodrich, who is Black and is a partner at Monadnock. “This legislation suggests that performance, which is what we’ve been told matters, really doesn’t. What really matters is whether you are a nonprofit or not.”