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Queens lawmakers hail passage of bill to convert empty hotels into affordable housing

State Senator Michael Gianaris passes legislation that will distressed hotels and empty office space into affordable housing. (Courtesy of Gianaris' office)

With the legislative session winding down in Albany, state Senator Michael Gianaris passed his Housing our Neighbors with Dignity Act (HONDA) in the upper chamber Wednesday, June 9.

The legislation will allow the state to finance the purchase and conversion of distressed hotels and vacant commercial office space into permanent affordable housing by nonprofit organizations to ensure every New Yorker has access to a safe and affordable place to live.

Gianaris noted that $100 million was included in the state budget in April to fund such conversions under HONDA.

“New York has seen a decades-long affordable housing crunch exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic devastation,” Gianaris said. “This legislation is a good way to tackle the dual problems of distressed properties and lack of affordable housing. I am thrilled that this passed, and that we have a funded program that will provide real relief going forward.”

Under the legislation, new affordable housing must be made available to low-income households, and people who were previously homeless. At least 50 percent of the units will be set aside for individuals who experienced homelessness immediately prior to applying for converted units.

The legislation passed in the Assembly Thursday, June 10. Jackson Heights Jessica González-Rojas Assemblywoman co-sponsored the measure.

“While our state’s COVID outlook has certainly improved, New York faces an ongoing financial and public health crisis that has exacerbated the need to expand affordable housing statewide,” González-Rojas said. “The pandemic’s economic fallout has increased both the numbers of households that are housing insecure and the average rental debt of people in affordable housing. In addition to increasing our housing crisis, the pandemic has left many hotels shuttered and could lead to permanent closure of a significant portion of New York’s total hotel rooms. Affordable housing is a critical component of New York’s recovery and we should be doing everything we can to address this long standing issue and support vulnerable populations. This bill would put our state on a path toward permanent affordable housing and help ensure stable housing for more New Yorkers.”

The program would ensure prevailing wages for building service employees in projects located in New York City.

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