NEW YORK CITY-The New York Housing Conference and National Housing Conference Awards Luncheon’s keynote speaker at its luncheon yesterday, Senator Charles E. Schumer, soon to be the senior senator from New York, spoke on the serious housing shortage and his plans to address it. “Anyone who thinks the housing shortage won’t bite into the economy is mistaken,” he said. “[This year] we have a deficit of 75,000 new homes to new jobs.”

He began, “67% of all US households own their own homes. The flipside to this prosperity, which is particularly apparent in New York, is that every day it gets harder to buy or rent a home or apartment. Job growth over the last year was 80,000 jobs; there were 5,000 new units of housing created.” Schumer noted that without meeting the housing needs of the workforce, the workforce will migrate elsewhere.

Citing New York State Comptroller Carl McCall’s report No Room for Growth and the Center for Housing Policy’s recent report, Schumer highlighted statistics showing 43% more Americans in 1993-1996 paid half their income for housing. He observed, “The 1990s real estate made it harder for cities to retain teachers, cops and firefighters.”

“All too often, housing policy focused on the very poor, forgetting about the middle class, so they got the short end of the stick,” he said. His own plans include measures such as adding Section Eight Vouchers, strengthening the Community Reinvestment Act and supporting Federal matching grants for preservation. While programs aimed at the middle class have taken flak in the past, he contended that this is the best way to address the needs of communities.

Schumer added that he will convene the New York Congressional Delegation as soon as the session starts again and will push to encourage enterprise zones in communities. He also said he will advocate the cleaning of brownfields to use as sites for multifamily housing units.

Schumer concluded by congratulating those who were given special awards at the luncheon for their efforts for affordable housing solutions. Schumer himself had been honored in 1989 by NYHC. This year the Honorable Joseph B. Lynch, appointed commissioner of the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal in 1999 by Governor Pataki, was awarded the Distinguished Public Service Award. Special Recognition Awards were given to the chairmen of the Housing Committees of the New York State Legislature, Senator John J. Bonacic and Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez.

Also honored was Jeffrey E. Levine, president of Levine Builders, as Distinguished Housing Developer of the Year, for his efforts on the affordable housing segment of the Central Harlem Partnership Plaza. The project is the largest single-site, government-assisted project in New York City. There are more than 240 limited equity cooperatives and more than 60,000 feet of commercial space.

George L. Engelke, Jr., chairman, president and CEO of Astoria Federal Savings and Loan Association, Kenneth J. Witkin, managing director of the Fleet Real Estate Finance Group, and Eugene R. McGrath, chairman and CEO of the Consolidated Edison each accepted Distinguished Community Development Awards. Each represented not only their company, but also their sector that contributed to the rebirth of the Parkchester residential complex in the Bronx. The Community Preservation Corp. led sponsorship of the project, which was heralded at the luncheon through speeches and a video, reflecting the goals of the conference.

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