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NEW YORK CITY-Developers could sell vacant luxury condominiums to the city, which would then make them available as affordable rental or for-sale housing under a program proposed by Council Speaker Christine Quinn. The speaker made the proposal public during her State of the City address on Thursday.

“I’ve got nothing against high-end development,” Quinn said on Thursday. “In fact, this Council approved much of it. But no one could have predicted this. Thousands of those homes never sold, left like tarnished trophies of the building boom. These vacant apartments now represent our best asset in the fight for affordable housing.”

Where developers have units they cannot sell, said Quinn, “the city will negotiate the lowest possible price, and make these homes affordable for middle-class families to rent or buy. Using existing funds, we’ll add thousands of new affordable homes.” She adds that the program would add the affordable stock via units that are “already out there, just waiting for someone to call them home.”

A spokesman for Quinn tells GlobeSt.com that participation in the program would be strictly voluntary on the part of developers. The city would also provide a “funding supplement” to help cover developers’ expenses through the program, although the spokesman adds, “it wouldn’t be to provide a windfall profit.”

Details of the program are still to be worked out, including a formula for determining the price that developers would receive for their unsold units. Also still to be determined is the pool of unsold condos that would be available through the program to middle-class residents, although the spokesman says it’s “potentially quite large.” The proposal grew out of the Council’s Affordable Housing Task Force, which Quinn established following her 2008 State of the City address.

Focusing on a commercial tenant sector the Bloomberg administration intends to grow, Quinn also proposed a city tax credit Thursday to encourage biotechnology startups in developing facilities and hiring staff. “New York is already a leader when it comes to the world of medicine,” she said. “We train more of the nation’s doctors than anyone else, and we’re home to the best hospitals in the world. We’re also a center of cutting edge research for the biotech industry, creating advances in medicine our parents could never have imagined. But when it comes time to turn that new discovery into a new drug, New York loses out. Instead of creating jobs and economic activity here, biotech companies leave our city for places like Boston or San Diego.”

Quinn said that by becoming more competitive, “we’ll create nearly a thousand high-tech and high-paid jobs.” She noted that the city is already creating more biotech space, including the new East River Science Park and the BioBAT facility at the renovated Brooklyn Army Terminal–”over one million square feet in all.”

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