City plans to suspend senior housing program
HPD cites fair housing concerns
The city is pulling the plug on a senior housing program over concerns that it violates fair housing laws.
The Department of Housing Preservation and Development told developers this month that it plans to stop accepting applications for its Privately Financed Affordable Senior Housing program, known by its acronym PFASH.
The program allows developers to increase the scale of a project that sets aside a certain percentage of units as affordable independent residences for seniors, or AIRS.
In a notice to the New York State Association for Affordable Housing, HPD said it was suspending the program amid concerns “raised from a Fair Housing perspective” — namely, that senior units are off limits to families who would benefit from living near good schools, mass transit and other amenities in “high-opportunity areas.”
HPD declined to comment.
The program is relatively young, having been delayed for three years after being created in March 2016 as part of Zoning for Quality and Affordability, a text amendment.
To get the density bonus, developers must dedicate at least 10 units to elderly residents making at or below 80 percent of the area median income. Of those apartments, 90 percent must be occupied by at least one person age 62 or older.
Real estate attorney Alvin Schein, who represents developers with active PFASH applications, said he doesn’t understand HPD’s concerns about the program, given that the federal Fair Housing Act includes exemptions for senior housing.
Also, the units are not exclusive to seniors, said Schein, who added that abruptly discontinuing the initiative will erode developer and lender confidence in city programs.
“It makes developers, investors and lenders very wary of working in the city,” he said. “It isn’t a good way to encourage development of any housing in the city.”