NYHC/NHC Speakers Warn of ‘Mounting Fears’ for Affordable Housing

There may be increasing concern about the prospects for affordable housing. Speakers at the New York Housing Conference (NYHC) and National Housing Conference’s (NHC) 39th Annual Awards program warned that the outcome of Capitol Hill fiscal negotiations may not be favorable to the industry’s production, preservation and investment programs.

Bloomberg, Terwilliger, Arker Cos. and NeighborWorks honored at NYHC/NHC annual awards program

By Keat Foong, Finance Editor

Far Left: (L to R): Alan Wiener, Wells Fargo; Brad Grier, NYC Director of Housing Recovery Operations.
Back row: (L to R): J. Ronald Terwiliger; Sol Arker; Daniel Moritz; Allan Arker; Alex Arker: The Arker Companies; Chris Estes, National Housing Conference.
Front row: (L to R): Marc Jahr, NYC HDC; Mathew Wambua, NYC HPD; Judith Calogero, New York Housing Conference; Deborah Boatright, NeighborWorks America; Bernell Grier, NHS of NYC, Inc.; Christopher Kui, Asian Americans for Equality; Maria Barry, Bank of America Merrill Lynch; Sydelle Knepper, SKA Marin; John Kelly, Nixon Peabody.

There may be increasing concern about the prospects for affordable housing. Speakers at the New York Housing Conference (NYHC) and National Housing Conference’s (NHC) 39th Annual Awards program warned that the outcome of Capitol Hill fiscal negotiations may not be favorable to the industry’s production, preservation and investment programs.

There are “mounting fears that negotiations to avert the fiscal cliff could leave affordable housing programs vulnerable,” said Judy Calegero, CEO of NYHC. Calegero said that one estimate places the chance for the survival of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit at a little better than 50 percent. The housing industry faces strong headwinds, and conditions demand that it charts a new course, she said.

“What frightens us is what happens” to the tax-exempt and LIHTC programs, said Richard Gerwitz, managing director of Citi Community Capital, at a panel. He said he has heard some alarming rumors. “Certainly it will be a different world no matter what happens,” he said.

“The fear today in Washington, D.C., is that as Congress struggles with deficit reduction, that affordable housing will be left behind,” said J. Ronald Terwilliger, retired CEO of Trammell Crow Residential. Terwilliger noted that more than 30 million American families are already housing cost-burdened, spending more than 30 percent of their incomes on rent.

Terwilliger, who is active in championing affordable housing and donating to the cause, was among the honorees this year at the NYHC and NHC’s annual luncheon. The other recipients of awards were: New York City’s Bloomberg administration, The Arker Companies and NeighborWorks America’s Northeast Region division.

The New York City Bloomberg administration received NYHC and NHC’s Public Service Award for its New Housing Marketplace Plan. The City of New York established a final target in 2006 to finance the creation or preservation of 165,000 units by the end of Fiscal Year 2014.

In presenting the award, Alan Wiener, group head of Wells Fargo Multifamily Capital, said that New York City’s new Housing Marketplace Plan is the largest affordable housing plan undertaken by any city in the nation. NYHC/NHC stated the program set “a new national standard for municipal housing efforts.”

In accepting the award, Mathew M. Wambua, Commissioner of New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, said that the city is on schedule to complete the plan by June 2014. Besides creating affordable housing, recovery efforts post-Hurricance Sandy and finding long-term housing for displaced hurricane victims now compose additional priorities for the city housing agency, he said.

Brad Gair, director of Housing Recovery Operations for the City, explained that implementing New York City’ rapid repairs program to enable residents to stay in their homes costs a small fraction of the $250,000 per unit that it would be required to house them in temporary mobile homes.

The Arker Companies received the award for Private Developer of the Year, and NeighborWorks America Northeast Region received the Nonprofit of the year Award. Arker Companies was described by NYHC and NHC as “a longstanding staple” in New York City real estate with a commitment to affordable housing and its tenants.

NeighborWorks’ Northeast Region is the most active branch of NeighborWorks, which represents nonprofit community organizations across the country. Under the leadership of Northeast Regional Director Deborah Boatright, a lifelong activist, the division has expanded training programs in such areas as executive leadership, foreclosure prevention and community development.

Terwilliger was presented with the Empire Award for Leadership in Affordable Housing. In retirement, Terwilliger has been active in championing affordable housing and donating to the cause. His donations include $5 million to establish the ULI Terwilliger Center for Housing, which furthers the development of mixed-income and mixed-use housing; $5 million for the Enterprise Terwilliger Fund, which is expected to create 2,000 affordable homes annually; and a $100 million legacy gift to Habitat for Humanity International, which will help 60,000 families access improved housing conditions.

In his speech, Terwilliger stressed that housing is a central component of people’s lives. He observed that many philanthropists give to health and education, but that housing is needed before these other needs can be met.