Velázquez fights to finance affordable homes

U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez is working to save affordable housing in New York.
Photo by Tequila Minsky
By Naeisha Rose

A lack of action from the Housing and Urban Development Department in financing affordable housing could mean a loss of more than 7,800 units of apartments throughout New York City, according to U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-Brooklyn).

“With New York and much of the nation facing a housing crisis, it would be the height of irresponsibility to allow the expiration of a program that has a proven track record of expanding affordable housing stock,” said Velázquez, who represents parts of Queens.

Currently, the Federal Financing Bank & Risk-Sharing Program has been credited with creating more than 20,000 units of affordable housing, valued at $2.2 billion nationwide, with two of those apartment buildings located in Queens.

Since 2014, the New York City Housing Development Program has used the financing for seven transactions totaling $345 million in loans for more than 3,000 units, some of which are in the Marseilles Apartments building — located at 98-05 67th Ave. in Rego Park — and the Belair Apartments building — located at 8825 148th St. in Jamaica.

If HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson does not extend the program by the end of September, 21 future projects totaling more than $488 million in loans could mean the loss of more than 7,800 new units of apartments, including four apartment complexes in Queens, according to a spokesman on Velázquez’s staff.

Those apartments include the South Jamaica II apartments located at 106-5 159th St., the Bay Towers apartments located at 319 Beach 98th St. in Rockaway Park, the Goodwill Terrace apartments located at 04-21 27th Ave. in Astoria, and the Seagirt Apartments located at 1430 Seagirt Blvd. in Far Rockaway.

To save the program, Velázquez and other members of the city’s Congressional Delegation signed a letter addressed to Carson and HUD that stressed the importance of renewing the FFB program, which is an arm of the Treasury Department.

“There is little doubt that New York City — like much of America — is in an affordable housing crisis. And as more and more individuals and families struggle to find safe, quality, housing they can afford, this program continues to efficiently leverage private investment with state and local government resources to help finance thousands of affordable homes in New York City and around the country,” the representatives wrote.

The Federal Financing Bank program uses its authority from the Treasury Department to effectively finance mortgages insured by HUD’s Federal Housing Administration at a very low interest rate in order to support the construction and preservation of rental housing, according to the letter.

The Federal Housing Administration partners with local Housing Finance Agencies to risk-share and streamline the new construction and preservation of affordable housing, therefore, resulting in low cost capital that efficiently finances the new complexes with little risk to the federal government, according to the letter.

“At a time when we are facing an acute affordable housing shortage in every state, HUD and Treasury should extend the program agreement,” the letter reads.

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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