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NEW YORK CITY-HUD Secretary Mel Martinez ceremoniously handed Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. George Pataki 300 keys as a symbol of affordable housing units that will be created through at $50 million grant. The Lower Manhattan Development Corp. has allocated the HUD funding, including surplus from the LMDC Residential Grant Program, for an affordable housing initiative that will fund approximately 300 affordable units for moderate to middle-income working families in the income range of approximately $50,000 to $85,000. Bloomberg called moderate and middle-income families the “social glue of our communities.”

The program will provide a $50 million grant for subsidies for affordable housing tied to the Liberty Bond program, jointly administered by the New York State Housing Finance Agency (HFA) and the New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC). The program will require that 20% of the units developed, for the next four projects or until the $50 million is fully allocated, be provided for affordable housing.To date more than 1,300 units have been approved for Liberty Bonds and more than 6,000 units are in the pipeline.

At a press conference announcing the initiative, Pataki said, “This program will make it easier for hundreds of hard-working New Yorkers who want to settle downtown find an affordable place to live, build a bright, stable future for their families, while simultaneously rebuilding and revitalizing Lower Manhattan.”

“Affordable housing is fundamental to New York City’s long-term economic prosperity,” Bloomberg added. “The investments we are making today will help to create the kind of Lower Manhattan we want–a vibrant and diverse 24/7 community for people to live, work and play in.”

Martinez explained that while “smoke was still rising” from the World Trade Center site, the government agencies began talking about rebuilding including affordable housing initiatives.”

LMDC president Kevin M. Rampe expects this program to be the first of several initiatives to create affordable housing for working families in Lower Manhattan. “These funds will ensure that a diverse range of professionals including firefighters, police officers, and teachers can become part of downtown’s thriving residential community,” he added.

The media event was held in front of 111 Worth St., a 330-unit residential and retail development that was the first residential site constructed in Lower Manhattan since Sept. 11, 2001. Lower Manhattan was the fastest growing residential neighborhood in New York City prior to September 11, after the tragedy, vacancy rates climbed to over 40% in some areas and the stabilization of the residential base became essential to the revitalization of Lower Manhattan. The LMDC Residential Grant Program funded by HUD contributed significantly to the stabilization of the neighborhood by attracting new residents to the area, encouraging existing residents to stay, and providing an incentive for two-year leases. Occupancy rates in Lower Manhattan are now over 95% and Battery Park City has higher occupancy rates than at any other time in its history. More than half of the residents in the area closest to the World Trade Center site are new residents.

Last December, Bloomberg began an effort to dedicate $3 billion in funds over the next five years, creating or preserving 65,000 units of housing; of these 27,000 units will be new and 38,000 units will be preserved. The plan includes a stream of initiatives aimed at facilitating private investment in housing in targeted communities by removing barriers to development and reducing costs of construction. As of July 1, the official kick-off of the plan, the Housing Development Corporation already started 1,749 units, and in fiscal year 2004, HDC and Housing Preservation and Development anticipate starting 8,030 units of housing.

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