Last call for senior housing program

HPD gives developers March 30 deadline just two months after signaling end of PFASH

(Getty, iStock/Illustration by Alexis Manrodt for The Real Deal)
(Getty, iStock/Illustration by Alexis Manrodt for The Real Deal)

Developers have less than a month to submit plans under a senior housing program that the de Blasio administration is ending.

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development announced that it will only accept applications for its Privately Financed Affordable Senior Housing program, or PFASH, through March 30.

Developers then have until June 30 to close on their projects and finalize regulatory agreements with HPD. After that, the agency is pulling the plug on PFASH.

As part of the program, developers are able to increase the scale of a project if they set aside a certain percentage of units as affordable independent residences for seniors, or AIRS.

In December, HPD alerted an affordable housing group that it was suspending the program over Fair Housing concerns. The agency recently issued a public notice that the program was “not compatible with other agency priorities” and conflicted with Mandatory Inclusionary Housing because PFASH units aren’t “open to all income-eligible New Yorkers.”

“While we very much want to harness the market to create more senior housing, we don’t want to inadvertently do so at the expense of other types of affordable housing that are necessary to serve the broad and diverse housing needs of New Yorkers,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

Real estate attorney Alvin Schein, who is working with five developers on AIRs projects, questioned why the city couldn’t exempt MIH areas from the program instead of doing away with PFASH entirely.

“I think it is very tragic that we could easily be doing hundreds of senior units a year,” he said.

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The AIRS density bonus, however, is still available to publicly funded projects through the acronym-loving agency’s Senior Affordable Rental Apartments program, or SARA.

The program was created in March 2016 as part of Zoning for Quality and Affordability, which is among the most significant amendments to the city’s zoning resolution in decades. But PFASH’s rollout was delayed because HPD didn’t issue a term sheet for it until 2019.

Under the program, 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.

It isn’t clear if a specific rezoning under MIH served as the impetus for the PFASH suspension. The de Blasio administration is seeking to rezone Soho/Noho and Gowanus before the mayor’s term ends Dec. 31.

Ahead of the passage of ZQA, the Brooklyn Borough Board raised concerns about AIRs, pointing to the potential conversion of such units to market-rate housing once the developer’s 30-year regulatory agreement with the city expires.

The term sheet for PFASH, however, requires that any extra housing created under the program remain affordable senior housing until it is taken out of service. The units also must be registered with the state as rent-stabilized.

YuhTyng Patka, who chairs the real estate and tax incentives group at Duval & Stachenfeld, lamented that the program is being ended before really taking off. She noted that the second deadline set by HPD is in June, typically a busy month for the agency.

“Everyone is concerned about meeting a deadline that is, in part, out of their hands,” she said, referring to the PFASH regulatory agreements. She noted that HPD gave builders little headway by not revealing until December that it was shutting down the program. “In the world of real estate development,” Patka said, “six months is nothing.”