Gianaris: State should buy, convert distressed hotels and offices

Legislation would mandate affordable units, including for homeless

Sen. Michael Gianaris (iStock, Getty)
Sen. Michael Gianaris (iStock, Getty)

Hotels and offices have seen their values drop. Now a state senator wants New York to buy and convert some into affordable housing.

A bill introduced by Sen. Michael Gianaris this week would let the state buy such distressed properties to house low-income and homeless people. Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed an office-conversion bill in January, but it did not call for public acquisitions.

In the Gianaris bill, the state could use federal money such as Covid-19 relief to buy and renovate the properties. Housing nonprofits and other organizations would then operate the properties.

Only hotels with fewer than 150 units would be eligible, and most Manhattan hotels would be excluded.

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REBNY told the Journal that it supports creating more affordable housing through various ways, but issued a statement that seemed to take a dim view of the bill from the Queens senator, who has been a thorn in the industry’s side for years. REBNY backed Cuomo’s January proposal, which the governor said would create affordable housing but which Gianaris claims might result in purely market-rate buildings.

“New York City will remain a global commercial hub by creating more dynamic central business districts through strengthened retail and small business sectors and producing much needed housing, including affordable units,” James Whelan, president of the industry group, said in the statement.

[WSJ] — Sasha Jones