Queens lawmaker’s legislation to convert distressed hotels into affordable housing enacted into law

File photo by Todd Maisel

The state will create a fund to convert distressed hotels and commercial properties into permanent residences for homeless and housing vulnerable New Yorkers after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Housing Our Neighbors with Dignity Act (HONDA) into law.

The bill was sponsored by Astoria state Senator Michael Gianaris, who 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. “HONDA will tackle the dual problems of distressed properties and lack of affordable housing made worse by the pandemic. Now let’s begin the hard work of properly implementing HONDA and ensuring more New Yorkers have a home they can afford.”

Under HONDA, hotels and commercial properties will be repurposed as permanent affordable housing and then be operated by nonprofit housing providers.

“The Housing Our Neighbors with Dignity Act will create a multi-faceted recovery plan for New York state. The conversion of distressed commercial units into affordable housing units addresses the needs of our businesses and of our housing crisis,” said Bronx Assemblywoman Karines Reyes, who carried the legislation in the lower chamber. “During the pandemic, it has been made abundantly clear that the housing crisis is a public health crisis. HONDA will provide the state with the tools it needs to assist New Yorkers as we continue our recovery through the pandemic. I am very pleased that this idea will become reality, with its recent enactment.”

A number of housing advocates lauded the passage of HONDA, which will provide relief for the more than 92,000 New Yorkers who are without a place to call home, according to Cea Weaver, coordinator of the Housing Justice for All Coalition.

“HONDA will allow our state and nonprofit housing providers to work together and turn distressed hotels and office buildings into permanent subsidized homes,” Weaver said.

Paulette Soltani, political director of VOCAL-NY, took a parting shot at Cuomo, who is supposed to step down Monday.

“Homeless New Yorkers won back dignity they’d been denied for over a decade by Governor Cuomo, with the passage of HONDA,” Soltani said. “It took years of organizing and grassroots persistence to win, and we look forward to seeing homeless New Yorkers move into permanent, affordable housing created by this new law. Thank you to Senator Gianaris and Assembly Member Reyes for championing this critical bill, and to all of our allies for fighting alongside us.”

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