With Demand Growing Nationwide, NY State First to Receive Stimulus Funding for Affordable Housing

Across the country, the economic crisis has bolstered demand for below market-rate residential rental accommodations, and New York State is hardly an exception. Governor David Paterson was the first governor to push for the inclusion of affordable housing project funding in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and now the state has become the first to receive money–a total of $253 million in grants–for affordable housing from the stimulus package. The money will result in approximately 1,400 new or rehabilitated residences. An initial nine low-income housing projects have been identified to profit from the grants. Properties in the state’s Capital Region that will benefit from the funding include Albany County’s Van Rensselaer Village where 80 units will be rehabilitated, and Saratoga County’s Clifton Park Senior Apartments, which will be a 70-unit property for seniors. In the Central New York and Finger Lakes area, the Mildred Johnson Estates II in Rochester will move forward with the development of 20 single-family homes, and El Camino Estates in Rochester will see the construction of 24 single-family rental units and the renovation of a two-story building. The funds will also allow development of Syracuse’s 388-unit Parkside Commons to take the next step, and the refinancing and preservation of the 127-unit Madison Plaza Apartments in Rome. Multi-family communities Downstate and in New York City will receive financing from the stimulus package grants, as well. An aggregate 185 residences will be upgraded at the YWCA Residence for Women in Westchester County, and eight new units will be added. SelfHelp Kissena I and II in Queens will be refinanced and rehabilitated, and the 64-unit Erbograph Apartments (pictured) in Manhattan will be constructed. The need for multi-family properties to accommodate low-income residents is particularly strong in New York City. “Demand for affordable housing in New York City is overwhelming; it always has been and it always will be,” Deborah VanAmerongen, commissioner of the State Division of Housing and Community Renewal, told CPN. DHCR is administering the $253 million in grants. “With the downturn in the economy, there’s a need for more government-assisted housing, as opposed to market rate.” The waitlist for low-income housing is 10 years long. “We need the money from the stimulus package to have more public subsidies, and we need it to continue with public-private partnerships that have always been so strong in the past.” In New York City, investors usually flock to affordable housing developments, but over the last several months, many projects have come to a halt and many others have failed to launch altogether. “Demand for the product is so strong–we have a 0.01 percent default rate for these projects–so it’s not about the strength of the investment or demand, it has to do with problems elsewhere in the financial market,” VanAmerongen said. Deals have stalled, but with the stimulus money, we can move forward with shovel ready projects, and there’s the economic benefit of having construction jobs out there. That’s really important, too.” Fortunately, other states around the nation will be able to boost their affordable housing inventories through grants from the stimulus package, and the necessity for such funding is, perhaps, more crucial now than ever. “There’s more demand now with job losses,” Thom Amdur, associate director of the National Housing & Rehabilitation Association, told CPN. “We’re going to have increased stress on the market.”