Pataki and “Affordable” Housing

This bodes ill, I’d say, for Governor George E. Pataki as he girds for a national run.

From the AP:

A state agency that is supposed to finance the construction of affordable housing in New York has instead provided most of its money to developers building luxury homes over the past five years, according to a report to be released Thursday.

From 2000 to 2005, only 5,959 out of 12,715 total units built with funding from the state Housing Finance Agency, mostly in Manhattan, were deemed affordable in a Pratt Center for Community Development study critical of Gov. George Pataki’s performance on housing issues.

A full release from the Pratt Center is after the jump.

NEW REPORT CHRONICLES FAILED HOUSING LEGACY
OF PATAKI ADMINISTRATION

New York State Financed Luxury Housing
with Tax-Free Bonds Meant for Affordable Housing

New York, NY–More than half of the apartments built by the New York State Housing Finance Agency (HFA)–the state authority whose mission is to finance affordable housing–are luxury homes renting for thousands of dollars a month, a new report from the Pratt Center for Community Development finds.

From 2000 to 2005, only 5,959 out of 12,715 apartments built with HFA bonds, or 47 percent, were affordable. Virtually all of these apartments, financed using the state’s limited supply of tax-exempt bonds, are located in Manhattan and Westchester counties. The trend appears to be getting worse. In 2005, just 28 percent of the apartments HFA proposed building in New York City was affordable.

The Pratt Center report, “Time for a Gut Rehab: How the Next Governor Can Rebuild New York State’s Affordable Housing Legacy,” reveals this and other violations of HFA’s basic responsibilities as part of a comprehensive assessment of New York State’s affordable housing efforts under Governor Pataki’s leadership.

The report concludes that HFA is no isolated case: The Pataki administration has almost completely disregarded New York State’s growing affordable housing crisis. The report maps out the details of a failed housing legacy that has left New York as one of the least affordable state in the country. While the federal government’s “fair market rent” for a two-bedroom apartment in New York State increased 20 percent in the past eight years, the median income for tenants fell 21 percent (adjusted for inflation). Despite this need, New York remains one of just seven states without an affordable housing trust fund replenished by steady funding sources.

“This is more than the sleeper issue for this year’s political campaigns–New Yorkers need an affordable place to sleep!” said Alyssa Katz, who edited the report for the Pratt Center for Community Development. “Up until the last dozen years, New York State was a national leader in generating affordable housing. Now, state housing policy has failed New Yorkers on almost every level.”

Despite sharply growing need, Governor Pataki and his administration have:

· Failed to devise a statewide strategy responding to the varied housing and development needs across New York.

· Invested more than half of scarce tax-free bond financing in luxury housing.

· Given major campaign contributors favorable treatment and disproportionate funding.

· Cut investments in affordable housing and failed to provide new funding.

· Undermined the security of millions of tenants and facilitated the loss of tens of thousands of units of affordable housing.

· Taken actions that have increased the number of homeless New Yorkers.

· Neglected adult home residents with mental illness, and failed to provide housing alternatives.

“The neglect and cutbacks have had a terrible impact in poor neighborhoods of struggling upstate cities like Troy, Schenectady, and Albany,” said Fr. Gary Mercure, Pastor of Sacred Heart/St. William RCC in Troy, Clergy Caucus Chair for ARISE in the Capital District. “It is a matter of the highest urgency for people of faith and conscience to speak out to state leaders, both the governor and the legislature, and for our leaders to make a drastic change of course. “

“Not only has the Pataki administration failed to invest in affordable housing, under his watch we’ve lost significant ground, hemorrhaging hundreds of thousands of rent regulated units,” said Julie Miles, Executive Director of Housing Here and Now, a New York City-wide affordable housing coalition. “The next governor will need to be especially aggressive on housing to make up for all this lost ground.”

“Housing abandonment and neighborhood blight have engulfed the City of Buffalo and other upstate cities and now threaten their very viability,” said Aaron Bartley, of People United for Sustainable Housing in Buffalo. “The Pratt report documents the ways in which the Pataki administration has contributed to this crisis and charts a more hopeful and intelligent path for our next governor.”

“Pratt’s report is the latest in a string of reports that have highlighted the perfect storm being formed in affordable housing,” said Jumaane D. Williams, Executive Director, NYS Tenants & Neighbors. “Overall, Pataki’s administration has been disastrous for affordable housing and tenants. Tenants can find almost no recourse, and the loss of Rent Regulation and Mitchell-Lama is a complete disregard to people’s right to housing.”

“Cut-backs in federal dollars coupled with the rising cost of new construction has literally left some of our citizens with nowhere to ‘lay their heads,’ said Rev. Dr. Ronald P. Davis Sr., President of the Alliance of Communities to Transform Syracuse. “Someone must speak for the voiceless and the powerless. Revitalization of abandoned properties should be a key component in addressing the issue of affordable housing in the city of Syracuse.

The report also lays out targeted recommendations for the next governor to reclaim New York’s legacy on affordable housing. These recommendations include:

· Increase investments in proven programs that create and preserve affordable housing;

· Preserve the affordable housing units of millions of New Yorkers;

· Create a “fair share/smart growth” plan for affordable housing that meets the different needs of all of New York’s regions. Such a plan should:

­ Enable upstate communities to revitalize abandoned neighborhoods

­ Bring “fair share” housing and smart growth to the state’s suburbs

­ Make the state a true partner with New York City in its affordable housing efforts

· Develop and implement a concrete plan to end homelessness; and

· Reform the state’s housing agencies and authorities.

“We need to channel scarce public funds away from campaign donors and luxury housing and toward programs that meet the housing needs of all New Yorkers,” concluded Katz. “It’s time for New York to find a way home.”

END

About the Pratt Center for Community Development:

The Pratt Center for Community Development works for more just, equitable, and sustainable communities for all New Yorkers by empowering residents to plan for and realize their futures. As part of Pratt Institute, it leverages professional skills – especially planning, architecture and public policy – to support community-based organizations in their efforts to improve neighborhood quality of life, attack the causes of poverty and inequality, and advance sustainable development.