Affordable housing has long been a topic at the forefront of NYC politics, but it gained even more attention with Mayor de Blasio’s plan to preserve or build 300,000 affordable units by 2026, which has resulted in a slew of new lotteries, a new more user-friendly web portal, and an update to ease the process for immigrants and low-income New Yorkers. But the topic is not without its issues, especially with the city reeling in the wake of the pandemic. Many still wonder if the city is doing enough for affordability and if some of the available units are really affordable. Ahead, we break down the different types of affordable housing programs, how you can qualify and apply, and what happens if and when you get in.
2111 Southern Boulevard; Map data ©2020 Google
A group of real estate companies has purchased eight affordable housing buildings in the Bronx for $166 million. LIHC Investment Group, Belveron Partners, and Camber Property Group last week announced the joint deal, which involves 1,275 housing units and 10 commercial units that fall under the city’s Mitchell-Lama program. The firms plan to keep the units affordable, instead of converting them to market-rate apartments when the rent regulations expire.
The River Crossing building in Harlem; Photo by CTC Creative
A group of real estate investors is buying 2,800 New York City rental apartments for $1.2 billion. But instead of keeping with the industry’s custom of converting affordable units into market-rate homes, L+M Development Partners and its partner Invesco Real Estate plan on returning a chunk of those units to long-term regulation. The venture involves the purchase of five former Mitchell-Lama buildings in Manhattan, with four in Harlem and one on Roosevelt Island.
Waterside Plaza, a former Mitchell-Lama Housing Program-funded rental project. Photo via Flickr cc.
A high percentage of working New Yorkers do not qualify for low-income rentals yet still struggle to pay the city’s exceptionally high rents on the private market. While this may seem like a new problem, in fact, it is something legislators and housing advocates have been attempting to resolve for over 70 years. Indeed, this is how the affordable rentals and co-op units offered under the Mitchell-Lama program first came into being, and 68 years after its launch, Mitchell-Lama is still offering middle-income renters and buyers access to affordable housing.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday that the city will invest $250 million to protect 15,000 Mitchell-Lama apartments from going to market rate. The investment is part of the city’s initiative to create or preserve 300,000 units of affordable housing by 2026. The new program will address over 15,000 Mitchell-Lama homes where affordability is at risk over the next eight years.
Loss of affordability at Coney Island’s Trump Village highlights issues with the city’s Mitchell-Lama program, Mon, August 21, 2017
Photo of Trump Village West via Trump 4 West
Built by Donald Trump’s father, Fred, in 1964, Trump Village in Coney Island features seven 23-story towers with 3,700 co-op and rental apartments. To pay for the $70 million project, which would total $564 million today, Fred Trump used Mitchell-Lama, a government program that granted financial incentives in exchange for setting aside affordable housing. The typical rental contract lasts 20 years, and after that, landlords can opt-out of the program. As Crain’s reported, Trump Village became one of the first co-ops to exit the Mitchell-Lama program in 2007, letting residents sell their apartments for whatever the market allowed. Owners of 38,000 Mitchell-Lama apartments, representing 28% of the program’s housing, have left in the past 20 years. But as the value of these apartments, which were once affordable, keeps rising, New Yorkers looking for affordable housing there, and other former Mitchell-Lama apartments, may be out of luck.
The Lincoln-Amsterdam House is a 25-story co-op building that stretches from West 64th to 65th Streets along the eastern side of West End Avenue, just one block away from Lincoln Center. It’s a Mitchell-Lama development, which, as 6sqft previously explained, is a program “created in 1955 to provide affordable rental and cooperative housing to moderate- and middle-income families.” As of today, the 100-name waitlist is open for four-bedroom units in the building to households with a minimum of six persons earning between $33,440 and $149,531 annually. The co-ops will sell from $102,814 to $109,545.
Trinity House is a 199-unit rental building at 100 West 92nd Street on the Upper West Side, just a block away from Central Park. It was built in 1968 by the Trinity School, which occupies the first three floors, as a Mitchell-Lama development. As 6sqft previously explained, this affordable housing program “was created in 1955 to provide affordable rental and cooperative housing to moderate- and middle-income families. These buildings are privately owned, but are under contract with New York state to keep prices affordable. Owners of these buildings receive tax abatements and low-interest mortgages.”
Back in 2013, Trinity House made headlines when the school received approvals from the city for a rent hike of up to 13 percent, more than three times the standard increase for rent-stabilized units that year. However, units have still remained affordable, and a 750-name waitlist has just opened for studio apartments that range from $432 to $503 a month for one- and two-person households earning between $17,263 and $90,625 a year.