By Stephen Stirling
A Flushing affordable housing advocacy group is taking a new approach to battling developers it says are buying buildings and jacking up rents in the city's affordable units by purchasing the properties itself.
Asian Americans for Equality announced Friday that it has purchased two Flushing apartment buildings that will be preserved for low- and middle-income tenants and renovated to be more energy efficient.
“There has been much rhetoric about the need to preserve affordable housing in our community, yet we still continue to see luxury development and tenant displacement,” AAFE Executive Director Christopher Kui said. “The simplest solution to this problem is purchase units and make sure they are managed to cater to low-income families and working families.”
The buildings on Sanford Avenue and Parsons Boulevard, which were available on the open market, were purchased with the help of a $125,000 grant secured by state Assemblywoman Ellen Young (D-Flushing), who hailed the acquisitions as a landmark step in the fight for affordable housing.
“These two buildings are providing real, tangible solutions to the affordable housing crisis,” Young said. “By saving buildings from rent hikes and luxury development, we are giving our low-income tenants and working families a place to call home.”
Kui said that recently in Flushing and elsewhere in the city, private equity firms have been scooping up rent-stabilized apartment buildings and then pressuring their tenants to leave.
“These private equities are looking to make a profit as soon as possible,” Kui said, “so they do everything they can to force the existing tenants out.”
Flushing has been a hotbed for real estate purchases in recent months. Earlier this year a group of 10 rent-stabilized apartment buildings on 38th Avenue and Bowne Street was sold as part of a real estate package worth more than $50 million.
Kui said some of the funding obtained by Young will be put toward energy-efficient windows and bulbs, EnergyStar kitchen appliances, roof and boiler repairs and hot water storage and heating systems to help the buildings' tenants save on rising energy costs.
“We want to make the buildings green,” Kui said.
Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at Sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.