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NEW YORK CITY-Days after Starrett City was put on the auction block, New York City’s government is taking steps to assure affordable housing still exists in the area. The Housing Development Corp. has approved providing $550 million in financing for about 2,000 apartments and Mayor Michael Bloomberg has backed reforms to the 421-a property tax program.

On Friday, the Housing Development Corp. approved funding for the creation or preservation of 2,000 apartments. This year the HDC has provided $1.8 billion to create or preserve more than 9,000 apartment units in all of New York’s boroughs. The recent funding will provide $71.5 million for four projects in the Bronx. The projects are for residents who make less than $42,540 per year for a family of four, and include 500 East 165 St. in Morrisania; 4278 Third Ave. in East Tremont; 1926 Crotona Pkwy in Crotona Park; and 1785 Walton Ave. in Morris Heights.

In Brooklyn, $22 million will be used to finance one new apartment building at 346 Bergen St. in Boerun Hill and a conversion project at an under-utilized YMCA at Third and Atlantic avenues.

Manhattan’s Lower East Side and East Harlem will receive $172 million for four individual projects, three of which are new construction. A vacant Boys Club at Houston and Pitt streets will be replaced by a 12-story building that will house 263 units, all of which will be low income. At 1405 Fifth Ave. an 84-apartment, eight-story building is planned. Replacing a parking lot at 121 to 125 East 110 St, middle-income units are planned. And the 125-unit Casabe House, at 143 East 120 St will be restored, allowing the facilities senior citizen tenants to remain in the building.

For the borough of Queens, the HDC will grant $49 million for three individual projects. One of those projects is a planned, 184-unit apartment building that will be built on a parking lot. The Project will provide housing for low-income seniors. Projects in Staten Island will also receive $25 million in financing from the HDC. The money will be used to redevelop the public housing project, Markham Gardens, into a 240-unit mixed-income area that will contain 23 three-story buildings.

“These programs are attracting private capital, and private developers, into affordable housing at a rate never seen before in New York City,” said HDC president Emily Youssouf in a statement. “The 25,000 apartments that we have financed under the New Housing Marketplace Plan are the very results of this innovation.”

The Mayor’s New Housing Marketplace Plan was launched in February 2006. The initiative calls for the construction and preservation of 165,000 affordable housing units by 2013. This year’s plan more than doubles the initial plan from 2002, which aimed to build and preserve 68,000 units by 2008. At the same time the Mayor revised the affordable housing plan, he assembled a task force to look at 421-a, a tax incentive program initiated in 1971 to jump-start housing development. The task force offered its recommendations in October, and together with Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the Mayor has drafted new legislation.

Under the new proposed law, 421-a will enlarge the geographic exclusion area from the current Manhattan parameters to areas including lower Manhattan, DUMBO, Brooklyn Heights and Williamsburg. Developers working within the GEA are offered tax abatement if 20% of the project is for those residents who make up to 80% of the area’s medium income.

The new legislation also calls for the elimination of the negotiable certificates program and the creation of an Affordable Housing Trust Fund that will aim at the City’s 15 poorest areas. The certificates program will require developers to have affordable housing as part of the existing project in order to receive tax abatement, and will not allow them to buy certificates sold by other developers outside the GEA. According to a release from the major’s office, “The result would increase tax revenue to be used for a dedicated $400 million Affordable Housing Trust Fund and generate $300 million for the Mayor’s New Housing Marketplace Plan.”

The bill also sets a ‘luxury cap,’ which will limit the total 421-a tax benefits a market-rate unit can receive. The current law sets no limit to the amount, but the new version calls tax abatement for only the first $65,000 of the apartment’s assessed value. Additionally, only developers who provide affordable housing will be eligible for twenty-five years of tax benefits.

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