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NEW YORK CITY-With the city once again facing a recession, as it did when the Bloomberg administration first revealed the New Housing Marketplace Plan in December 2002, Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday re-affirmed his administration’s commitment to the program.

“As I said to you six Decembers ago, New York’s commitment to affordable housing is strong, it is unshakable and I believe it is essential to our recovery and our future,” Bloomberg said in a keynote address at the annual New York Housing Conference and National Housing Conference awards presentation. He pointed out that when the NHMP was first announced, “there were many people who had questions about whether we could do it” in the post-9/11 slump. “We were aware of the challenges we faced” and found ways to overcome them.

Bloomberg said the construction of thousands of affordable housing units helped restore confidence in the city after 9/11, and noted that for the fourth year in a row, the city issued in excess of 30,000 permits for housing construction. “Our city has kept growing, and that isn’t the case in a number of cities,” he said.

In September, the program passed the halfway mark of the expanded NHMP, which seeks to create and/or preserve 165,000 units of affordable housing by 2016. However, Bloomberg noted that the month was also marked by the Wall Street meltdown, which has led to a new slate of challenges. For one, the value of low-income housing tax credits has plummeted in the past few months.

Bloomberg identified three measures the city is taking to address the challenges the downturn has created in the affordable-housing sphere. To help stem the rising tide of foreclosures, the Bloomberg administration on Thursday announced $2.3 million in grants to 19 not-for-profit service providers to help homeowners at risk of mortgage foreclosure throughout the five boroughs. The grants will fund legal assistance, mortgage counseling and education services for New York City residents.

The second, intermediate step is to help stabilize neighborhoods where there have been large numbers of foreclosures, to avoid a repeat of residents’ abandonment of whole neighborhoods in the 1960s and 1970s. To that end, the city plans to spend $24 million to acquire recently foreclosed homes and then resell them.

Long term, the previously announced plan to complete the second half of the NHMP program in five years will have to be stretched into six. But, Bloomberg said, the program will be completed: “We are not walking away from that commitment.”

Two members of the Bloomberg administration received awards during the 35th annual presentation. Tito Hernandez, who is stepping down as chair of the New York City Housing Authority after seven years, accepted a special recognition award on behalf of NYCHA. Shaun Donovan, commissioner of the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, received the public service award. Also honored, for housing development, was Peter Fine, principal of the Atlantic Development Group.

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